Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation ensuring that churches, clergy, religious organizations and people of faith cannot be discriminated against during a public emergency.
In addition, the legislature passed a measure protecting parental rights in education and health care. That bill awaits the governor’s signature.
The Religion is Essential Act, HB 2507, declares that houses of worship and religious organizations must receive equal treatment during a public crisis, along with other businesses and services deemed essential.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many governors took emergency powers, often granted by state statutes, and enacted mask mandates, lockdown orders and other restrictions. In many instances, churches were dubbed “nonessential” and were subject to harsher restrictions than other businesses.
Churches were also subject to penalties for violating state restrictions on worship services.
Some congregations fought back in the courts, while in many states, legislatures began passing Religion is Essential Acts, similar to the one just signed into law in Arizona.
The Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), an ally of Focus on the Family, explained that in labelling churches essential, Arizona was following the U.S. Supreme Court, which found “California and New York violated the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against religious houses of worship.”
CAP demonstrated how important churches were to individuals and the community:
Religious houses of worship and organizations provide extensive benefits to our country, not only in meeting the spiritual needs of our populace, but also supporting social services, health care, and economic activity. Religion contributes $1.2 trillion annually to the nation’s economy and society.
The second bill signed by Governor Ducey, HB 2449, ensures that individuals in health care facilities, nursing homes, hospices and assisted living centers have access to clergy when those institutions allow any visitation.
The law also states, “When a resident’s death is imminent, a health care institution must allow a clergy member to visit the resident in person for religious purposes” when the patient or representative requests such a visit.
In 2021, Arizona passed a similar law with respect to hospitals. CAP stated that the law allows “both clergy and patient to freely exercise their religious rights.”
The third measure is a Parent’s Bill of Rights, HB 2161, recognizing the fundamental right of parents to raise their children and acknowledging parents’ rights in education and healthcare.
It states that parents have the right to direct the education of their minor child; they are responsible for the upbringing and moral and religious training of the child; and parents have the right to make health care decisions for their child.
The bill pushes back against educational intrusion into children’s home lives. According to an email from CAP,
It also puts an end to the growing practice of schools providing probing surveys to students without their parents’ permission. If schools want to know if there are guns in the home, how much money the parents make, or if they get along, they can ask parents themselves.
The measure also gives parents recourse, the right to sue the state, government entities and government employees, when these parental rights are interfered with. That bill now awaits the governor’s signature.
Related articles and resources:
- CAP Supported HB 2507: Religious Services; Essential Services
- CAP-Supported HB 2449: Care facilities; Clergy Visitation
- CAP-Supported HB 2161: Parental Rights; Schools; Educational Records
The Daily Citizen:
- Arizona Legislation Would Ensure Parental Rights in Their Children’s Education and Health Care
- Arizona Passes Bills to Protect Babies, Minors and Female Athletes
- Michigan Legislature Approves Voter Initiative Repealing Governor’s Emergency Powers
- New Arkansas Law Declares Religious Organizations ‘Essential’ – Protects Churches During State of Emergency
- Pennsylvania Voters Pass Constitutional Amendment Limiting Governor’s Emergency Powers
- States Introduce ‘Religion is Essential’ Bills – Here’s How You Can Speak Up for Religious Freedom
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