McMaster signs bill to make religious groups essential during states of emergency

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday signed a bill that protects religious organizations during states of emergency.

The religious freedom bill means designated religious organizations are now considered essential during government shutdowns and will be able to operate during a crisis, such as COVID-19, when places of worship have had to shut down and resort to a church virtual or to any church at all.

Pastor John Das of Revive Church on Forestbrook Road in Myrtle Beach said churches should be seen as essential because they are a great way to get information to people. He also said religious organizations are not separate from society in states like South Carolina because most people in the state are affiliated with religion.

“It’s not just the fact that we preach, we sing and we applaud,” he said. “We have parking lots, we have facilities, we have places where if you need to bring in homeless people or if you need to set up some kind of emergency trauma center, we can partner and not be enemies.”

The bill provides that places of worship, religious ministries, organizations, social agencies, groups, businesses, educational institutions and other entities whose purpose is the study, practice or advancement of religion are exempt from closing during a state of emergency.

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