STATEHOUSE (May 24, 2021) – Legislation supported by Hendricks County lawmakers protecting Hoosiers’ right to gather for religious worship services during future public emergencies is now law.
During the early months of the pandemic, in-person religious services were prohibited, which cut constituents off from critical services and connections. Senate Enrolled Act 263, sponsored by State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon), prohibits the state or other government bodies from restricting the right to worship in-person, classifying religious gatherings as essential.
“Indiana took a strong step to protect the religious freedoms of all Hoosiers,” Steuerwald said. “Moving forward, even in times of an emergency, our right to worship in person is preserved.”
State Rep. Jeff Thompson (R-Lizton) said other religious activities like food pantries, daycare or school services can also not be more restricted than other essential services.
“Churches are a pillar in our communities that often go beyond the traditional Sunday-morning service,” Thompson said. “Many Hoosiers rely on their church for counseling, child care and warm meals, and even more so during emergencies. While some of these services continued when we were facing a pandemic, restrictions on church activities took a toll on a lot of people throughout the state.”
Americans’ mental health in 2020 was worse than at any point in the last two decades, according to an annual Gallup poll. Frequent church attendees showed the least change in their mental health ratings, which State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) said is a strong sign that religious institutions are vital to society.
“Just like many of our neighbors, my faith is what keeps me grounded and guides me through life,” Behning said. “My wife and I were able to attend church virtually when in-person services were suspended. We are incredibly grateful we could maintain that connection, but nothing can take the place of gathering together as a church family each Sunday.”