Neither the governor nor local officials could ever restrict worship services during a public emergency under a bill approved by a House panel Wednesday.
Sen. Eric Koch’s (R-Bedford) legislation – SB263 – separates out religious organizations and their worship services when it comes to public emergency orders.
If, for instance, a church operates a food pantry or a day care, government officials could impose restrictions on those activities – just not any more restrictive than other, essential services.
But Koch said the bill goes further when it comes to worship.
“Essentially says that may not be regulated by government," Koch said. "I think that’s consistent with our state’s constitution.”
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Gov. Eric Holcomb required churches to stop in-person worship services under his “Stay-At-Home” order in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) worries about the consequences of Koch’s bill.
“You either have super spreader events or just propagation of the disease through these religious organizations because they’re allowed to operate when many other organizations might not be able to,” Pierce said.
The bill is headed to the full House.