NEWS & ANALYSIS

South Carolina Gov. Signs Bill Making Churches ‘Essential’ During Emergencies


South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill into law making churches “essential” during emergencies like COVID-19. 

The law allows churches and other houses of worship to remain open during a state of emergency, deeming religious organizations “essential service” that “must be allowed to continue operations,” Just the News reports

McMaster said that closing churches would be a violation of freedom of religion, a Constitutional right. 

The bill reads that South Carolina “may not limit the ability of a religious organization to continue operating and to engage in religious services during a state of emergency to a greater extent than it limits operations or services of other organizations or businesses that provide essential services.”

South Carolina may, however, require religious organizations to “comply with neutral health, safety, or occupancy requirements during a state of emergency” that are also being applied to “all organizations or businesses providing essential services” and “do not impose a substantial burden on religious services.”