Bill to Exempt Houses of Worship from Emergency Closures Delayed


Final voting on a bill addressing government control over worship services during public emergencies, already heavily altered, will be delayed by one week for further potential changes. The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Rusty Grills (R-Newbern), indicated Monday that he would review the bill further to consider the concerns of Democratic State Representatives London Lamar (D-Memphis) and Harold Love, Jr. (D-Nashville). Lamar and Love raised concerns that governments couldn’t do enough to curb church activity during pandemics under the bill; Lamar argued that religious institutions would be fine if they were ordered to meet virtually.

The adopted amendment has already altered the bill entirely. The original provisions prohibited closures and limitations of churches or religious organizations, including their religious services or activities. In the amended version, the bill would only prohibit state and local governments and agencies from closing churches or religious organizations. It wouldn’t protect houses of worship from any governmental restrictions or limitations.

“The county health officer shall not issue an order […] that closes or limits the lawful operations of a church or religious organization, including religious services or activities,” read the original bill. “During a state of emergency, major disaster, or natural disaster, the state, a political subdivision, or a public official shall not prohibit, or impose additional restrictions on, the lawful operations of a church or religious organization, including religious services or activities.” (emphasis added)

The bill also wouldn’t prevent local municipalities from closing down houses of worship. It would only apply to the governor’s emergency powers.

It is unclear if the deletion of the language prohibiting any limitations or restrictions on religious organizations would enable the government to impose such severe limitations and restrictions that it would render that organization’s worship essentially defunct. It is also unclear if the deletion of the provision protecting religious services or activities would apply to communing with fellow believers outside of deity worship, such as those gathering practices observed by Christians.

The bill will appear before the House for its final vote, again, next Monday.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].






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7 Thoughts to “Bill to Exempt Houses of Worship from Emergency Closures Delayed”

  1. C. Richard Archie

    From our Declaration of Rights:

    Article 1 Section 3. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience; that no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any minister against his consent; that no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.

    This is the rule about all that!
    Article 11 Section 16. The declaration of rights hereto prefixed is declared to be a part of the Constitution of this State, and shall never be violated on any pretense whatever. And to guard against transgression of the high powers we have delegated, we declare that everything in the bill of rights contained, is excepted out of the General powers of government, and shall forever remain inviolate.

  2. 83ragtop50

    It should be a no-brainer under the Constitution that NO government entity can control church activities. I am sick and tired of the spineless group of supposedly conservative GOP legislators bowing to the left wing nuts at every turn. They need to rule like they campaign or get out of the way. I am ready to replace both my state rep and senator. They have become RINO’s.

  3. Wolf Woman

    Thanks, Kevin for your great comment.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when Legislators take the teeth out of a bill that only upholds our Constitutional rights.

  4. Phil Neel

    Never cave to communists Rusty. It admits defeat.

  5. Kevin

    We have allowed the literal tearing up of our Constitution and the God-given rights that it secured for a false sense of safety! It used to be that each of us was mostly responsible for the directions that our lives took. Now, you’ve got an overreaching government that sets the course.

    But, “Lamar argued that religious institutions would be fine if they were ordered to meet virtually.” Where are the religious leaders standing up against this theft of one of our most basic rights? I suspect that just like in 1973, as long as the “virtual” plate or basket can be “passed around”, they’re OK with it!

    Life (gone in 1973), Liberty (gone in 2020), are you happy, because so dies the great American experiment!

    1. Frank List

      could you please expand on your “1973” references?

      i was a high school senior then, and wasn’t very politically aware.


      1. Cannoneer2

        1973 is the year of Roe vs. Wade, opening the floodgates of supposedly “legal” abortion.