Kentucky has passed a law that requires the government to treat houses of worship the same as essential services whenever a state of emergency is declared after many states and municipalities enacted emergency orders during the pandemic limiting the size and scope of religious gatherings.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed House Bill 43 into law on Tuesday, which exempts houses of worship from specific emergency measures unless “such houses have become unsafe to a degree that would justify condemnation in the absence of a state of emergency.”
“A governmental entity shall not prohibit or restrict a religious organization from operating or engaging in religious services during a declared emergency to the same or any greater extent than other organizations or businesses that provide essential services necessary and vital to the health and welfare of the public are prohibited or restricted,” continued the new law.
“[N]o health, safety, or occupancy requirement may impose a substantial burden on a religious organization or its services unless applying the burden to the religion or religious service in the particular instance is essential to further a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
The new law won’t prohibit the state from requiring religious organizations to “comply with neutral health, safety, or occupancy requirements that are applicable to all organizations and businesses that provide essential services.”
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