COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina churches can stay open during a crisis, even amid a pandemic like COVID-19, under a bill Gov. Henry McMaster signed on Tuesday.
The bill prohibits the state from closing churches and other places of worship during a state of emergency if other essential services are allowed to operate. However, the state can still require religious organizations to follow safety protocols and occupy rules during emergencies.
State Rep. Richie Yow, R-Chesterfield, proposed the legislation after hearing from several religious and conservative leaders about the difficulty they faced when trying to hold and attend religious services during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when several nonessential businesses were told to close.
McMaster, a Republican, never closed religious services under his state of emergency, but churches were forced to innovate to continue holding worship services, proponents have said.
Greg Chafuen, legal counsel for the advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, in a statement commended McMaster and the South Carolina Legislature for passing the bill.
"This bill takes the modest step of ensuring that officials cannot use a public crisis to discriminate against religious operations in violation of the Constitution," the statement read.(c)2022 The State (Columbia, S.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.