First Amendment rights include the ability to gather for worship and COVID-19 does not erase this right.

(HARRISBURG, PA)  By a substantial margin, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives today voted to pass House Bill 2530, and protect the right of Pennsylvanians to gather in worship without infringement by the government.

“The ability to fully exercise their religion is guaranteed to citizens in the Bill of Rights and the Pennsylvania Constitution – and yet has come into question in recent months under emergency mandates,” said Randall Wenger, Chief Counsel of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. “No single individual should have the power to shut down churches and other houses of worship – even if that person is the governor.” 

Pastors and other religious leaders play a critical role in providing for the physical, emotional and spiritual health of many of our fellow citizens, as does the ability to gather together to freely worship God.  

Under the emergency declarations issued here in Pennsylvania, there were several weeks where many church leaders did not know whether and under what conditions they were permitted to meet. Local law enforcement shared the confusion. We’re grateful that the Wolf administration ultimately clarified that churches can freely meet. 

But that was not a given – since without HB 2530, emergency powers would permit the governor to shut down churches and places of worship, clearly transgressing First Amendment protections.

”Government does have the responsibility to protect public health and safety — but not at the cost of trampling our constitutional liberties on an ongoing basis,” said Michael Geer, President of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.  “HB 2530 sensibly restrains the power of the Governor in order to protect our first freedom found in the Bill of Rights. We applaud the bill’s main sponsors, Reps. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga) and Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland), and the 147 other legislators for their support of this important legislation.”

House Bill 2530 now moves to the Pennsylvania State Senate for consideration. Click here to contact your State Senator in support of this bill.

Here’s the roll call from today’s vote (149-53):