After some Virginia churches were unbelievably shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates narrowly passed a bill to shield religious bodies from any “rule, regulation, or order” from the governor or a government agency. The move was intended to block government closure of houses of worship that took place during the pandemic.
On March 7, Democrats in Virginia’s Senate General Laws and Technology Committee voted to block the bill.
The seven Democratic senators were: George Barker, Mamie Locke, Adam Ebbin, T. Montgomery Mason, Jennifer Boysko, John Bell and Ghazala Hasmi. None of them immediately responded to requests from FOX News for comment on the legislation.
Del. Wren Williams, who sponsored H.B. 775, called the bill “vital” for closing a “loophole” that poses a proven threat to religious freedom.
“During COVID, our executive branch here in Virginia used the Emergency Services and Disaster Act to shut down and severely restrict our churches, while leaving ‘essential’ liquor stores open,” Williams told FOX News Digital. “This was unconstitutional and unconscionable. … It’s vital that we pass this bill to close the loophole, protect our God-given constitutional rights and religious freedom, and empower our citizens to freely assemble in worship, with no more government crackdowns.”
H.B. 775 “provides that no rule, regulation, or order issued by the Governor or other governmental entity pursuant to the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Services and Disaster Law of 2000 applies to the exercise of religion in a church, synagogue, or other place of worship,” according to its official summary.
“As someone who has fought for religious freedom around the world my entire career, I find it appalling to see it limited here at home,” Tina Ramirez, president and executive director of the Richmond, Virginia-based human rights nonprofit Hardwired Global, told FOX News Digital. “I say often that there is no right more fundamental than the freedom of conscience. When our government is seeking to control whether, how, or when we can worship, it is an egregious infringement and exactly the type of thing I’m running for the Virginia Senate to fight against.”