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Gov. DeSantis to sign bill declaring all religious services 'essential' during emergencies

Senate Bill 254 states that an emergency declaration "may not directly or indirectly prohibit a religious institution from conducting regular religious services or activities."

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Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
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Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is set to sign a bill which declares all religious services "essential" in the state of Florida.

Senate Bill 254, which passed through the state senate in January, states that an emergency declaration "may not directly or indirectly prohibit a religious institution from conducting regular religious services or activities."

However, the government will be able to stop religious services if all businesses are ordered to be closed and only if an emergency declaration applies "to all entities in the affected jurisdiction," the bill reads.

SB 254 was introduced through the state legislature after religious institutions were deemed "non-essential" throughout the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sponsor of the bill, Republican state Senator Jason Brodeur, said that the bill will prevent future bans on places of worship under a state of emergency.

"It applies to all emergency orders that would come in. It would basically say if Publix is open, so is your place of worship," Brodeur said. "What it doesn't seek to do is what we've seen in some of the other states, where churches, synagogues and mosques were singled out for congregated activities."

Through an executive order in 2020, DeSantis designated all religious services in the state of Florida "essential" after other states like Washington, New York, and California shuttered places of worship.

The Republican Governor of Arizona Doug Ducey signed a similar bill in April which deemed all religious services essential in emergencies.

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