Proposed Indiana bill would make religious activities essential

Senate Bill 263 says state and political subdivisions, like county health departments, have to allow for religious activities to take place under the same reasonable guidelines as other essential businesses, and those guidelines can't interfere with Indiana's religious freedom law.

Posted: Apr 9, 2021 8:55 PM
Updated: Apr 10, 2021 8:22 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) -- At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, religious organizations shut their doors and shifted online, wanting to keep people safe while still practicing their faith.

However, with precautions in place, many people are heading back.

The Very Rev. Mark Gurtner, Vicar General with the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese says Indiana Senate Bill 263 is something he’s happy about.

"I think it’s a good thing that churches aren’t unjustly given restrictions more than other essential businesses. On the other hand, The Church is happy to cooperate with local and state health officials to make sure that everyone is safe," Gurtner said.

The bill says state and local government leaders have to allow for religious activities to take place under the same reasonable guidelines as other essential businesses, like grocery stores and pharmacies.

Republican State Senator Liz Brown, who helped author the bill says religious services were deemed non-essential in the beginning and limiting their ability to provide their service is against the principles our country was founded on.

"We certainly think that you can’t treat someone's faith less than buying eggs and milk at the grocery store, which is what is happening," Brown said.

When opening back up, churches would be allowed to operate at any capacity laid out for essential businesses of similar size, and would be allowed to enforce or not enforce mask-wearing, which is something the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese is enforcing.

Many religious groups have been back in person for a while, with proper precautions in place, and Gurtner says a bill like this is all about balance between listening to the science and the need of people.

"At the beginning of this, you know, I think we went overboard, but we didn’t know what we didn’t know," Gurtner explained. "So, now we know that we could have been in person with a lot of precautions where at the beginning we thought we had to completely shut down, and it probably turned out that that’s not the case."

Senate Bill 263 has made it through the Senate, has been referred to the house, amended, and sent back to the Senate where it was passed by a vote of 36 to 10 and while it’s not on the bill watch list, Senate Bill 263 is now just awaiting a signature from Governor Holcomb.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 733591

Reported Deaths: 13466
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1003871748
Lake54020975
Allen40829679
St. Joseph35898552
Hamilton35735408
Elkhart28745442
Tippecanoe22432219
Vanderburgh22342397
Porter18871310
Johnson18028381
Hendricks17283315
Clark13015191
Madison12725339
Vigo12482248
LaPorte12011214
Monroe11928170
Delaware10726187
Howard9959218
Kosciusko9451117
Hancock8325142
Bartholomew8085156
Warrick7792155
Floyd7677178
Grant7080174
Wayne7064199
Boone6722101
Morgan6596139
Dubois6162117
Marshall6083112
Cass5839105
Dearborn582178
Henry5767104
Noble563684
Jackson502773
Shelby493696
Lawrence4571120
Harrison436372
Gibson436292
DeKalb429685
Clinton428153
Montgomery425389
Whitley397439
Huntington393380
Steuben390057
Miami382668
Knox372690
Jasper370148
Putnam362360
Wabash354980
Adams341955
Ripley340270
Jefferson331581
White315654
Daviess298299
Wells291981
Decatur285692
Fayette281662
Greene280085
Posey271933
LaGrange268370
Scott267254
Clay260647
Washington241832
Randolph241481
Spencer232631
Jennings230649
Starke217854
Fountain213246
Sullivan212142
Owen202156
Jay196730
Fulton195640
Carroll189620
Orange184154
Perry184037
Rush173725
Vermillion169743
Franklin168435
Tipton163045
Parke146616
Blackford135132
Pike135134
Pulaski117145
Newton108334
Brown102641
Crawford101315
Benton99014
Martin89515
Warren82415
Switzerland7938
Union71110
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1089357

Reported Deaths: 19528
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1265611406
Cuyahoga1129542134
Hamilton803281211
Montgomery517261015
Summit47483955
Lucas42491792
Butler38487585
Stark32544909
Lorain25135486
Warren24359300
Mahoning21735588
Lake20791371
Clermont19844240
Delaware18582133
Licking16470212
Fairfield16284200
Trumbull16141468
Medina15341266
Greene15128244
Clark14062299
Wood13153189
Portage12930206
Allen11713232
Richland11414199
Miami10706220
Wayne8900214
Columbiana8859229
Muskingum8824133
Pickaway8589121
Marion8553136
Tuscarawas8500245
Erie7937155
Hancock6935128
Ashtabula6871172
Ross6871156
Geauga6724148
Scioto6431102
Belmont5960168
Union572948
Lawrence5583102
Jefferson5566151
Huron5453120
Darke5372126
Sandusky5369122
Seneca5305122
Washington5213109
Athens520458
Auglaize494586
Mercer481185
Shelby470193
Knox4506110
Madison438263
Putnam4297101
Fulton425969
Ashland425190
Defiance423997
Crawford3989107
Brown396657
Logan383076
Preble381098
Clinton373863
Ottawa368181
Highland356262
Williams342575
Champaign334658
Guernsey317353
Jackson313752
Perry295750
Morrow286839
Fayette282950
Hardin271564
Henry270266
Coshocton265657
Holmes2621101
Van Wert243963
Adams239553
Pike238034
Gallia236449
Wyandot232055
Hocking216062
Carroll192148
Paulding173940
Meigs145240
Noble133737
Monroe132542
Harrison109237
Morgan108523
Vinton84215
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
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Isolated rain showers are possible late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. Most of Sunday will be dry and warm, but one or two pop-up showers possible Sunday afternoon.
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