If you ever wondered where Democrats stand on religious freedoms you need look no further than a bill they just blocked from being passed in Virginia.
Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates successfully passed, by a narrow margin, a bill that would protect religious institutions from any “rule, regulation, or order” given by the governor of the state or any government agency, in light of the vaccine mandates and lockdowns that were issued during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fox News reported.
But Democrats in the state’s Senate General Laws and Technology Committee on Monday blocked the bill.
It is a bill that Delegate Wren Williams argued was “vital” for closing a “loophole” that is a 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,” he said to Fox News. “This was unconstitutional and unconscionable. Religious freedom is the bedrock of America and Virginia, and it’s at the heart of our constitution.”
“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,” Williams added.
A summary of the legislation says it “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.”
“No rule, regulation, or order issued by the Governor or other governmental entity pursuant to the Emergency Services and Disaster Law (§ 44-146.13 et seq.) shall apply to the exercise of religion in a church, synagogue, or other place of worship,” it says.
Virginia Democrat State Sens. George Barker, Mamie Locke, Adam Ebbin, T. Montgomery Mason, Jennifer Boysko, John Bell and Ghazala Hasmi voted to block it.
“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,” human rights nonprofit Hardwired Global Executive Director Tina Ramirez said.
“With such a rich history of defending religious freedom in Virginia where Thomas Jefferson wrote the historic Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which laid the groundwork for much of the First Amendment, it is astounding that Democrats in the Virginia Senate would try to exert such control over the freedom to worship here in the Commonwealth,” she said.
“I say often that there is no right more fundamental than the freedom of conscience,” she said. “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.”