INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana will begin recognizing religious activities as essential services and prohibiting most restrictions on them during a declared emergency, under a bill signed into law by Governor Eric Holcomb last week.
The governor's signature on Senate Bill 263, means religious activities will be considered essential beginning July 1. Under the new law, the state can't impose restrictions on any religious organization that are more restrictive than those imposed on other essential businesses and organizations.
The new law also doesn't allow the state or an officer or employee of the state to restrict people's right to worship or to worship in person during a disaster emergency.
The law is meant to make it so the state government and its agencies can't discriminate against religious organizations during a public health emergency.
“I hope it’s another 500 years before we ever have another disaster...like what our state and nation have experienced this last year,” Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford) said. “But should that arise, this should protect that very enshrined right in our Constitution.”
Indiana isn't the first state to deem religious activities essential during a crisis.
According to the Liberty Counsel, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a statewide executive order in April of last year declaring that attendance at churches and houses of worship was an essential activity.