Seth Udinski, FISM News
In an encouraging victory in the struggle for the freedom of religion, Republican Governor Eric Holcomb of Indiana codified a law last week defending the rights of churches in the Hoosier state to meet freely. The Senate Enrolled Act 263 (SB 263) declares churches to be “essential” and gives special protection for their operation. SB 263 states,
The state and a political subdivision may not impose restrictions on … the operation of a religious organization; or … religious services that are more restrictive than the restrictions imposed on other businesses and organizations that provide essential services to the public.
SB 263 represents an important win in the battle between First Amendment protection and government restriction under the guise of health protection. Since the COVID-19 pandemic first caused worldwide lockdowns in March of 2020, the government has become blatant in its interference of individual’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Some churches, such as Pastor John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in Southern California, have defied state-mandated restrictions with little push-back and maintained regular-capacity services, while others have faced severe opposition and persecution.
Though SB 263 is met with praise in the evangelical community, not all are thrilled about this headway in religious freedom. Many in the secular community will give lip service to the right to religious freedom, but will argue that the right to worship does not apply when a “deadly” health crisis is at play. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana argued in response to the passage of SB 263,
The right to exercise one’s faith, including the freedom to hold and attend worship services, is among our most fundamental rights. But religious freedom does not entitle religious institutions to receive special exemptions from the law if it would pose a grave risk to the health and lives of individuals and the public health. SB 263, however, would authorize just that.
It is clear – the liberal media and political machines are using COVID-19, a disease with a 99% survival rate that they are claiming poses a “grave risk to health and lives,” to infringe upon one’s right to worship. Hopefully, more states will follow Indiana’s example.