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New South Carolina legislation would label churches “essential services”

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Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, South Carolina

Bill Kennedy | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 02/24/22

The new law would ensure all houses of worship may remain open as long as other essential businesses are allowed.

South Carolina’s State Senate has advanced a bill which would label churches as “essential services,” in the event of another pandemic lockdown. Under the bill, H. 3105, houses of worship will stay open as long as other essential businesses are allowed. 

WISTV notes that at no point during the pandemic did Gov. Henry McMaster impose church closures by state mandate. Still, the bill will ensure that they cannot be closed in the event of any emergency scenario, pandemic or otherwise. The bill stipulates, however, that the government can still mandate precautions like mask-wearing in church. 

According to the bill, provided by the South Carolina General Assembly, it was introduced to the House in January 2021 and advanced to the Senate in March. Now that it was unanimously approved by a Senate subcommittee, it will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

While South Carolina did not restrict worship, several other states did. The bill will assure interested parties that at no point will other states influence the policies of South Carolina. 

Closures

The State reports that the only time when churches closed in South Carolina was in 2020, at the very start of the pandemic. During this period, protective procedures were still under development and there was confusion as to the safest methods of gathering. 

Tony Foster, the pastor at Restoration Worship Center in Greenwood, recalled a two-month period when churches were advised to close alongside non-essential businesses. He said: 

“The whole idea that came across is … that everything else, like grocery stories, were essential, but churches aren’t,” Foster said. “People need faith. In a time of upheaval and oppression, people need faith.”

There has yet been no argument made against H. 3105 from any of the South Carolina State legislators. If the bill continues on this trajectory, it should easily pass into state law. 

Read more at The State.

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