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AUSTIN, Texas, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Tuesday that prohibits closing churches in the state, thereby protecting the religious freedom of citizens.
H.B. 1239 prohibits the government from forcing places of worship to close even during an apparent crisis. “A government agency or public official may not issue an order that closes or has the effect of closing places of worship in this state or in a geographic area of this state,” the bill reads, upholding religious freedoms protected by the First Amendment.
Abbott announced the legislative action in a tweet the same day, saying, “I just signed a law that prohibits any government agency or public official from issuing an order that closes places of worship.” He then added, “The First Amendment right to freedom of religion shall never be infringed.”
I just signed a law that prohibits any government agency or public official from issuing an order that closes places of worship.
The First Amendment right to freedom of religion shall never be infringed.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 15, 2021
Republican Rep. Scott Sanford, who sponsored the bill earlier in the year, commented, “Churches provide essential spiritual, mental and physical support in a time of crisis,” supporting the need for religious services at all times. “Closing churches not only eliminated these critical ministries and services, but it violated their religious freedom, guaranteed by our laws and Constitution,” the Dallas lawmaker declared.
The move to protect places of worship from government intervention and closure comes more than a year after Abbott had forced heavy restrictions on Texans in the wake of worldwide lockdowns, including the closure of churches in the state. Soon after, on March 31, 2020, Abbott signed an executive order deeming religious worship an “essential service,” and allowing church buildings to reopen for public services.
In addition to protecting religious liberty, Abbott protected the civil liberties of those who opt not to take one of the experimental COVID vaccines currently being offered to Americans. On June 7, the governor signed into law an act that stops private businesses and government offices from asking clients for proof of vaccination before engaging in business. In an accompanying tweet, Abbott announced that “Texas is open 100%.”
“Texans should have the freedom to go where they want without any limits, restrictions, or requirements,” he added. “Today, I signed a law that prohibits any TX business or gov’t entity from requiring vaccine passports or any vaccine information.”
In spite of the new legislation, on June 12 a U.S. district judge rejected a lawsuit from 117 staff members of a Texan medical center against their employer for requiring them to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Houston Methodist Hospital ordered its entire 26,000-member staff to be jabbed before June 17, just two months from their April announcement, or face dismissal. There are 178 employees who refused the jab based on a judgment that the currently available vaccines against COVID-19 are “experimental and dangerous,” according to a report by NPR. All 178 were suspended without pay as a result of their decision.
Judge Lynn Hughes handed down a ruling that the hospital’s vaccine requirement was not tantamount to coercion, but argued that since vaccinating was not an illegal act, the hospital forcing its employees to take a vaccine could not therefore be considered illegal either. “Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer,” the judge said.
Commenting on the lawsuit’s claim that the vaccines are “experimental and dangerous,” the judge dismissed out of hand the staff’s concerns, calling them “false” and “irrelevant.” Contrary to his plain dismissal, however, the vaccines have been determined as experimental insofar as they remain unlicensed in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the FDA’s criteria, a vaccine granted emergency use authorization is “an investigational vaccine not licensed for any indication,” meaning it is still in experimental trial phases.
As for the dangers presented by the vaccines, the evidence for which continues to grow, Hughes simply commented that “(vaccine) safety and efficacy are not considered in adjudicating this issue.”