HARRISBURG –Reps. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) and Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland) have introduced legislation to ensure the religious freedoms of Pennsylvanians of all faiths are protected during times of emergency declaration.
“Our religious freedoms did not go away during COVID-19 and should not be affected by the current game of red light, green light,” Owlett said. “Thanks to the vague and often confusing guidance coming from this administration, our religious organizations must know – and have clarity – that they are able to worship as they see fit in the Commonwealth as guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions, especially in an emergency declaration.”
House Bill 2530 would bring clarity to the situation by amending the Religious Freedom Protection Act to state that no order issued during an emergency, or control measure issued under the Disease Prevention and Control Law, may impact the free exercise of religion in the Commonwealth.
“The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives us the rights of freedom of religion and to assemble,” Nelson said. “These rights are not guaranteed only some of the time. We have these rights always. While it is prudent to take extra steps during a pandemic to prevent the spread of disease, people should still be able to practice their religion in houses of worship if so desired.”
While the lawmakers believe the state’s houses of worship are already within their rights to gather as they see fit, their bill is designed to ensure beyond any doubt these religious gatherings will not be held to or requested to follow any arbitrary standards created by government.
Representative Clint Owlett
Representative Eric Nelson
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Owlett Contact: Patricia Hippler
Nelson Contact: Tracy Polovick