Senate OKs bill to block governor from closing churches, businesses during emergency

Georgia’s State Capitol.
Georgia’s State Capitol.

The Senate voted to approve one of several bills aimed at reining in the powers governors have during a public emergency.

Senate Bill 200 would allow churches to continue to hold all services and activities during a declared state of emergency. Businesses also would be able to operate as long as they meet safety protocols as established by the governor. The measure passed 29-19.

State Sen. Jason Anavitarte, a Dallas Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said a public emergency shouldn’t overrule Georgians’ ability to gather and worship — or continue to run their businesses.

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Senate Democratic Leader Gloria Butler of Stone Mountain said religious freedom was already protected by the U.S. and Georgia constitutions.

“Religious freedom does not give you a right to endanger other people and the public,” she said.

The measure is one of several bills limiting the governor’s powers making their way through the Legislature. A similar bill limiting the governor’s ability to close places of worship, introduced in the House, has been endorsed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

SB 200 heads to the House for its consideration.

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