Voters in Texas chose to amend their state constitution to protect religious freedom for churches during pandemics.
Sixty-two percent of voters chose Yes on Proposition 3 “to prohibit the state or any political subdivision from enacting a law, rule, order, or proclamation that limits religious services or organizations,” in response to church closures and capacity limits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eighty-eight percent of voters chose Yes on Proposition 6 “to establish a right for residents of nursing or assisted living facilities to designate an essential caregiver, who cannot be prohibited from in-person visitation,” also in response to the pandemic.
“For all the elderly and most fragile in our society who live in congregate care & were denied seeing their loved ones during the pandemic, thank you for overwhelmingly voting for Prop 6,” State Senator Lois Kolkhorst said on Twitter. “In Texas, we will never let them die of loneliness again.”
State and local governments across the country ordered churches closed or limited capacity in 2020. A federal judge in July 2020 blocked former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on religious services. The U.S. Supreme Court also rule against him, contending that Cuomo’s restrictions were harsher against houses of worship than secular establishments and declared the restrictions a violation of the Free Exercise Clause.
Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Southern California defied the government during the pandemic and kept his church open. The government threatened him with fines and jail. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works retaliated against him by ending a contract for the church to use government land as a parking lot, which the church had used for 45 years. McArthur sued the state’s attorney general, the city’s mayor, and other officials. The state and county settled the lawsuits, paying McArthur $800,000.
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