On Thursday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to protect churches as essential in the state of Oklahoma. Senate Bill 368, by David Bullard, R-Durant, creates the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, prohibiting declaration of religious institutions as nonessential.
“The U.S. Constitution guarantees our freedom of religion and clearly states that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’,” Bullard said. “Unfortunately, many churches around our state and nation were unconstitutionally mandated to limit their religious services and told what they could and couldn’t do in their own buildings. We must fight for our freedom and our faith, and I want to thank the Senate for joining me in protecting Oklahomans’ rights.”
SB 368 prohibits any governmental entity from declaring or deeming a religious institution and any activity directly related to the institution’s discharge of its mission and purpose to be nonessential. Additionally, it prohibits the closure of such institutions for health or security purposes if those actions are greater than what is imposed on any private entity facing the same or similar health or security conditions.
The bill will next be heard in the House where Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola, is the principal House author.