(USA Features) Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed legislation that bars state and local officials from closing houses of worship as a means of guaranteeing citizens’ First Amendment rights.
“I just signed a law that prohibits any government agency or public official from issuing an order that closes places of worship,” Abbott said in the tweet. “The First Amendment right to freedom of religion shall never be infringed.”
The bill, HB 1239, was filed by state Rep. Scott Sanford, a Dallas-area Republican, says, that a “government agency or public official may not issue an order that closes or has the effect of closing places of worship in the state or in a geographic area of the state.”
“Churches provide essential spiritual, mental and physical support in a time of crisis,” Sanford said his measure, which passed the Texas House in April.
“Closing churches not only eliminated these critical ministries and services, but it violated their religious freedom, guaranteed by our laws and Constitution,” he added.
The law comes after Abbott ordered Texas to shut down businesses and venues about a year ago due to the COVID pandemic. Churches were included on a list of non-essential entities.
The governor was eventually sued by faith leaders who argued that churches and houses of worship are vital to citizens. Abbott later reversed that part of his order.
On Tuesday during his “Ruthless” podcast, Abbott announced that his state will be completing the construction of a wall along the southern border and would begin accepting public donations to fund its construction.
“I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to, for everybody in the United States, everybody in the entire world who wants to help Texas build a border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute to Texas building the border wall,” Abbott said.
“They go to a fund in the state of Texas — not a private entity, not an individual,” he added.
“They will be received by the state of Texas in the governor’s office, great transparency, everyone will know every penny in, every penny out. But the sole purpose of those funds will be going to build the border wall.”