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Freedom to Worship Act means local churches must decide what's best for the community

Posted at 6:53 AM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 08:48:08-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Texas House Bill 1239, also know as the Freedom to Worship Act was inspired after places of worship were ordered to close at the start of the pandemic.

“So churches cannot be compelled to close under this house bill," said Associate Professor of Political Science at TAMUCC, Shane Gleason.

House Bill 1239, bans state agencies and officials from issuing orders that close or have the effect of closing places of worship in the state. That includes during disasters like evacuations and public health emergencies, the Coastal Bend has been through both.

“I can see Texans wanting to protect their religious freedom of their citizens and to protect churches,” said First Baptist of Rockport Pastor Scott Jones.

First Baptist Church of Rockport serves over 1,000 members. Jones said they continued their services after Hurricane Harvey and they did the same during the start of the pandemic.

“We were closed for almost two months and did online only worship,” said t Jones.

Pastor Jones says the church cooperated with local agencies.

“I was in constant contact with community leaders and county leaders to see what they were doing and what they wanted us to do,” says pastor Scott Jones.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of Corpus Christi said its not up to the individual parish like over in Rockport.

“No church really can without speaking to me close it doors,” said Bishop Michael Mulvey.

Mulvey said he speaks with local representatives of the Diocese on a weekly basis.

“I know whats going on in Freer, in Beeville. So. I'm in touch quite a bite its not like I'm just sitting in a tower making decisions,” said Mulvey.

Mulvey said those decisions affect a community of 100 parishes.

Shane Gleason is an associate professor of Political Science at TAMUCC said this was something the republican party supported all the way.

“This is something they're all about and that’s why a lot of religious organizations are opposed to this legislation,” said Gleason.

Gleason said this law aims to eliminate the feeling of having fundamental rights limited and there will have to be compelling reason in order to close a church.