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Virginia bill limits emergency powers to close churches

The State of Virginia is advancing a bill that would prevent the government from placing emergency restrictions on religious services as long as businesses and other secular facilities are open. The legislation comes in response to the time during the pandemic in which churches were closed and forced to hold their services virtually.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Virginia followed the same path of most states, placing strict restrictions on large gatherings, which included church services. The move was frustrating to some people of faith, who saw secular businesses allowed to stay open even while churches were continuously shuttered. At the time, some concerned groups brought lawsuits against the state to challenge the restrictions, but these were largely unsuccessful.

“During COVID, you could go to a state store and buy liquor,” said Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg. “But you could not go to church. This bill means the governor’s not gonna open liquor stores and close churches.”

Now, according to Virginia Mercury, the proposed bill was originally worded to make houses of worship completely exempt from any rules imposed under the state’s emergency powers. This version of the bill passed the Virginia House of Delegates, but when it reached the State Senate – controlled by the Democratic party – the bill’s authors scaled the proposal back. As it stands, the bill would place houses of worship at the “least restrictive level” of any shutdown orders.

Read more at Aleteia 

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