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Religious Organizations Shielded From Health Orders Under Bill Passed By House

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Lauren Chapman
/
IPB News

Religious organizations would be shielded from many health orders in future public emergencies under legislation approved by the House Tuesday.

Gov. Eric Holcomb barred in-person worship services early in the pandemic. And other religious activities – a church-run day care or food pantry, for instance – were restricted more than other “essential services.”

Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) supports legislation, SB 263, that would make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“It bothers me the path that we’ve gone over the past year that people could not worship and were threatened with arrest in gathering during this pandemic,” Morris said.

The bill bars the government from restricting worship services at all during a public emergency. And other religious activities couldn't be restricted any more than essential services.

Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) worries the bill protects institutions more than people.

“The people who are going to those churches are not being given the protection that the same person would be if they tried to go into any other gathering,” DeLaney said.

The bill cleared the House by a 73-20 vote. It is headed back to the Senate.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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