Texas Law Deems Houses of Worship As "Essential" At All Times, Including During Disasters

State and local governments may not "prohibit a religious organization from engaging in religious and other related activities"

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Last week, Texas Governor Abbott signed HB 525. This law ensures that houses of worship will always be deemed "essential," and cannot be restricted during disasters.

(a) Notwithstanding any other law, a religious organization is an essential business at all times in this state, including during a declared state of disaster, and the organization 's religious and other related activities are essential activities even if the activities are not listed as essential in an order issued during the disaster.

(b) A governmental entity may not:

(1)At any time, including during a declared state of disaster, prohibit a religious organization from engaging in religious and other related activities or continuing to operate in the discharge of the organization 's foundational faith-based mission and purpose; or

(2) during a declared state of disaster order a religious organization to close or otherwise alter the organization 's purposes or activities.

More states should be proactive, and ensure that constitutionally protected activities--including the rights of free exercise and the right to keep and bear arms--are always deemed "essential."

NEXT: Does the Council on Environmental Quality Have the Authority to Issue Binding Regulations Implementing NEPA?

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  1. They may not have heat, AC, or lights, but good for them.

    1. How did churches ever operate before electricity?

      1. Well, the period in which religion held sway was called the dark ages.

        1. Really? I seem to recall it had a resurgence during the Renaissance.

          1. But it was the defanged 2.0 version.

            1. That was during the Reformation and Enlightenment. I do believe the Inquisitions were during the Renaissance.

              1. Maybe; my memory isn't what it used to be.

                Here's an important point that often gets overlooked: Religion is a natural phenomenon, and as such it is subject to evolutionary constraints like survival of the fittest and natural selection. It evolves over time for the same reason animals evolve: To stay alive. There is no religion today that looks anything at all like what it looked like 500 or 1000 years ago, and every religion today will look radically different 500 or 1000 years from now (if it survives at all).

                Government works the same way, which is why we're never going back to the federalism the founders envisioned. Natural selection and survival of the fittest at work there too.

                1. Right. Sometimes predators evolve into symbionts, and sometimes symbionts evolve back into predators.

                  Religion evolved for lowered virulence, at least in some places.

                  And government was never more than an oportunistic pathogen temporarily occupying a role as symbiont. Like any such, it reverts to the pathogen role if not properly restrained by the host.

                  1. I would agree that it started out as a pathogen, and in many places still is, and that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

                    But once the host has figured out how to convert it from a pathogen to a relationship of mutual benefit (which happens in organisms too, by the way), I see no reason to ignore the uses to which it can be put. Sure, keep an eye on it -- eternal vigilance -- but don't toss out its useful aspects with its bad ones.

                    1. The problem comes when you forget that it really is a constrained predator, (it will help you forget) and listen to it whispering, "I could do more for you if you took off these chains."

                      I think the pivotal mistake was letting the government run the schools, instead of just helping the impoverished afford schooling. Thus putting the government in charge of teaching the next generation why it was wrapped in all those chains.

        2. "period in which religion held sway was called the dark ages"

          No religion before Early Middle Ages (c. 5th–10th century)? Odd.

          I guess you never heard of the Roman Empire or the Kingdom of Judea, among many, many historic examples.

          1. I wasn't aware that the Roman Empire or the Kingdom of Judea were religions. (Hey, if you can be pedantic, so can I.)

            1. I wasn’t aware that the Roman Empire or the Kingdom of Judea were religions. (Hey, if you can be pedantic, so can I.)

              He didn't say they were, and what he was saying was pretty easy to understandable by anyone with an above-room temperature IQ.

              (Hey, if you can be pedantic, so can I.)

              Pointing out your substantive factual errors isn't pedantry. In fact, neither was your comment. It was just more ignorance.

              1. "easy to understandable" should have been "easy to understand". That's what happens when you change typing horses in the middle of a stream of thought.

              2. Can someone alert Wuz's owner that he's barking again and needs to be whacked over the head with a newspaper?

                1. Would you like to see my hammerfor?

                  1. If I had a hammer
                    I'd hammer in the morning

  2. I wonder if this applies to mosques. What happens if, god forbid, a Muslim commits an act KC domestic terrorism? With the mosque still be considered essential? Or does this only apply to Christian houses of worship?

    1. You think a single Muslim act of terror could render all mosques less religious?

    2. Of course it applies to mosques... If a Muslim commits an act of terror, that doesn't mean all mosques should be shut down. Any more than if a Christian or Jew commits an act of terror.

    3. It applies to "religious organization"

      Your bigotry against Texans or GOPers or Christians [or all three] is showing.

    4. None of you picked up on my sarcasm. I’m aware that it applies to all religious organizations. I’m merely pointing out that if something happens, I doubt Texans will actually still want to protect the local mosque.

      1. I’m merely pointing out that if something happens, I doubt Texans will actually still want to protect the local mosque.

        So those who picked up on your bigotry have been proven correct.

        1. After 9/11, many people pushed for a quick rebuilding of Christian and Jewish houses of worship. But were bitterly opposed to putting up a mosque within a few blocks of the site. *Even After* it was pointed out that there had been a mosque even closer to the site...that didn't matter. People thought it was horrible optics (which makes no sense, unless you accept the premise that Muslims in general should suffer for the acts of the animals who hijacked those planes.

          I think that Jeremy's point is well-taken, and it's not the tiniest bit bigoted to him to have made it. Projection much?

          1. The fact that there were a small number of bigots on the other side (who nevertheless got media attention disproportionate to their numbers) does not make Jeremy's point any less bigoted.

      2. But by law, they will have to. That's how equal protections work.

  3. Could an emergency justify limiting religious gatherings to generally applicable measures like face masks or capacity limits?

    1. Only to the extent essential businesses are shut down or restricted.

    2. I don't see how the government could impose emergency capacity limits like the 10-at-a-time rules that popped up here and there last year. That would require the church (mosque, etc.) to "alter the organization's purposes or activities". Gatherings of people are an essential part of some religions. Face masks are another story. Perhaps a mask mandate would be construed as a generally applicable law that does not unduly burden religion. Plenty of room for litigation here.

  4. An excellent law. Good to see the State of Texas defending the rights of Muslims, Hindus and Jews to practice their religion as they wish.

    If only our "liberal" blue states were so enlightened.

    1. Aside from Kinky Friedman, how many Jews in Texas?

        1. According to that page, 0.6% Jewish. I used to live in Newton, Massachusetts with about 30 times as many Jews per capita.

      1. We're also something like the 5th largest Muslim population (per-capita) state.

    2. But they won't, because one of the wrong people might escape punishment.

      1. Indeed. In many respects, there's nothing so frightening as an intolerant liberal.

  5. One size does not fit all.

  6. All free speech activity as well Josh? All constitutionally grounded rights equally protected?

  7. "More states should be proactive, and ensure that constitutionally protected activities–including the rights of free exercise and the right to keep and bear arms–are always deemed "essential."" Agreed. And the rights to speech, peaceable assembly, and redress of grievances should be in there too.

  8. Is there anything a Texas Republican figures can't be improved with an extra dose of superstition, ignorance, bigotry, or backwardness?

  9. How does this not violate the Establishment Clause?

    1. It affirms the establishment clause.

      There are those that want to interpret the doctrine of Separation of Church and State only one way: that the church should have no influence on the state. This affects the other side of the doctrine, the state shall have no power to regulate the church.

      You do believe in separation of church and state don't you?

    2. How does this not violate the Establishment Clause?

      You're kidding...right?

    3. It affirms the Free Exercise Clause.

    4. How does it violate the establishment clause?

      1. What is the secular purpose of the law?

        What is the effect of the law, if not to specifically advance religious interests?

    5. Perhaps it can be viewed as an accommodation of religious exercise permitted by Cutter v. Wilkinson?

  10. Well good, the worse the disaster or emergency is the more churches and religious comfort is needed.

    If the end of the world is coming it's important to be prepared for the next world.

    I'm an atheist myself, but the fact I don't believe is no reason for me to want to deny comfort to those that do.

    1. Kaz,
      I think that the most die-hard liberal would have no problem with churches, mosques, temples (etc) staying open in just about all disasters. But not in a pandemic!!!! Earthquake? Of course, stay open. Fires, hurricanes, twisters? Stay open. Your temple staying open can provide comfort (either physical or spiritual) and any possible harm (eg, an aftershock will drop the temple on those seeking succor within) cannot affect me in the slightest. Your religious accommodation does not affect the secular world in any tangible way. But a pandemic is different. Here, your actions can definitely cause huge harms outside the religion.

      Anyway, that's the argument. Fortunately, I think (hope!!!) that pandemics are rare enough so that today's dopey new law will not harm many people.

      1. Let's hope that by the time the next pandemic afflicts us reason will have overcome organized religion to a point at which the issue of special privilege for superstition is irrelevant.

  11. This legislation brings back the ancient right of sanctuary -- and applies it to viruses.

    1. CJColucci, short, pointed, ironic, and true. Four editorial virtues in one short line. Hard to do better.

  12. Seems like this easily violates the Lemon test. Was that overruled?

    1. More or less, yeah. It's maybe endorsement now. Or maybe something else.

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