Local Legislator Files Bill to Make Churches ‘Essential'

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A North Texas politician wants to make a new law that would designate all places of worship as essential.

On Tuesday, State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Dist. 66) announced he filed legislation that will designate places of worship and religious activity as “essential” under Texas law.

If passed during the upcoming 87th Legislative session, the bill would prevent churches from being forcibly shut down in the future because of a disaster declaration or any other reason.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental right protected for all Americans in the Constitution,” Shaheen said in a statement. “Because of egregious government overreach and blatant discrimination against churches and other houses of worship, it is clear that we must act to grant them further protection.”

Shaheen said the legislation comes, "after numerous examples across the nation of religious gatherings being expressly prohibited while secular businesses have been permitted to continue to operate."

Most in-person services were shut down earlier this year due to COVID-19 as the need for social distancing increased, forcing many of the faithful to go online for services.

“We cannot and will not give an inch in this fight," Shaheen said. "We will defend our freedom of religion. It’s the lifeline of our nation.”

Shaheen represents Texas House District 66, which encompasses west Plano and far north Dallas.

The 87th Texas Legislature will convene at noon on Jan. 12, 2021 and will adjourn on May 31. Bill prefiling began on Nov. 9.

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