Senate Bill 397, the “Religion is Essential Act” authored by Senator Brian W. Jones (R-Santee), will be heard tomorrow afternoon in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will convene in the Senate Chambers beginning at 1:30pm, on Tuesday afternoon. The media and members of the public can best view the hearing by livestream at www.senate.ca.gov.
Persons who want to go on record with their position on SB 397 can do so by calling: 1-844-867-6163, access code: 1101654. Individuals may then share their name, organization (if applicable), and position on the bill.
SB 397 would declare that the right to practice one’s religion at their chosen house of worship is deemed essential and shall be treated no differently than other state-declared essential services such as shopping malls, Hollywood film production, and fast food restaurants.
The rationale for SB 397 has been bolstered by two recent United States Supreme Court decisions:
- South Bay Pentecostal United Church v. Newsom on February 5, 2021, was a 6-3 ruling overturning California Governor Newson’s ban of indoor religious services during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Court ruled that while the state can impose reasonable safety restrictions and limitations, the state cannot enforce an outright ban of church services if similar secular activities are allowed.
- Ritesh Tandon v. Newsom on April 9, 2021, was a 5-4 ruling overturning Newson’s ban of in-home private religious gatherings of more than three families. Again, the court ruled that religious gatherings should not be treated any differently than secular gatherings.
“Twice within the last few months the highest court in the land has had to step in and protect our religious freedom here in California,” stated Senator Brian W. Jones. “A strong declaration that religion is essential needs to be put into state law so Governor Newsom – and future California governors – will not so easily side-step and undermine our Constitutional right to religious freedom.”