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SC House considers bill to keep churches open in emergency

February 14, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina House panel plans to review a bill that would confirm churches and other religious organizations are treated as essential services during a state of emergency.

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Richie Yow of Chesterfield says religious groups still have to follow safety protocols and occupancy rules during emergencies.

But churches and other houses of worship can’t be closed if other essential businesses are open, the bill says.

Last spring while temporarily closing restaurants, beauty salons, gyms and other businesses because of COVID-19, Gov. Henry McMaster repeatedly stated closing churches would violate the freedom of religion provision in the U.S. Constitution.

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The House Special Laws Subcommittee is meeting about the bill Tuesday.