During the pandemic, a lot of decisions were made using emotions rather than facts or science. Even today, the debate over mask mandates continues when thousands of health professionals and doctors claim that masks do very little to stop the spread of COVID-19. On top of masks and lockdowns, the government had the tough task of labeling which businesses were deemed essential and which were not. While grocery stores were considered essential, places of worship were not exempt from the stay-at-home order, causing numerous protests. Making sure people will always have a place to worship, Florida State Senator Jason Brodeur filed a new bill that would make places of worship essential during any emergency. 

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Introducing Senate Bill 254 on September 17th, Brodeur stipulates the “emergency orders may not expressly prohibit religious institutions from regular religious services or activities.”

It isn’t just Brodeur as state Representative Nick DiCeglie also filed his one companion bill in the House. Labeled House Bill 215, the bill would require that any emergency lockdown order must be equally distributed across both religious institutions and businesses.  

Able to fit the entire bill on one page, it reads, “An emergency order … may not expressly prohibit a religious institution from conducting regular religious services or activities. However, a general provision in an emergency order which applies uniformly to all entities in the affected jurisdiction may be applied to a religious institution if the provision is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

As for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, he backs the bills as during the pandemic he exempted religious organizations from local mandates. He said, “There is no reason why you can’t do a church service 6 feet apart. In times like this, I think the service that they are performing is going to be very important to people, particularly coming up in the Easter season.”

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Gov. DeSantis added that he wasn’t even sure the Democrats had the authority to close churches. “I don’t know that they would have the authority, quite frankly. The Constitution doesn’t get suspended here. There’s got to be ways where you can accommodate.”