US state approves comprehensive protection of religious services after impact of Covid

US state approves comprehensive protection of religious services after impact of Covid Credit: Mazur/

Texans have voted to prohibit the state from taking any action that would prohibit or limit religious services.

SJR 27, otherwise known as Proposition 3, is an amendment to the state’s constitution that bars “the State of Texas or a political subdivision from enacting, adopting, or issuing a statute, order, proclamation, decision, or rule that prohibits or limits religious services”.

The proposition also says that the amendment “would apply to religious services, including those conducted in churches, congregations, and places of worship, in the state by a religious organisation established to support and serve the propagation of a sincerely held religious belief”.

Opponents of the proposition said it was overly broad and warned that it would hamstring public officials during natural disasters and other emergencies.

According to still-unofficial results, Proposition 3 garnered about 63% of the vote, while about 38% of voters cast their ballots against the measure. The vote is widely seen as a response to the closing of churches and religious services during the Covid pandemic by public officials.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) tweeted their support for the amendment. They wrote: “Yesterday, Texas voters took to the polls. Two constitutional amendments to the Texas Constitution that the TCCB supported (Proposition 3 & 6) passed. Protect religious liberty and guarantee access to essential caregivers at nursing homes and assisted care facilities.”

Proposition 6, also known as SJR 19, says that “residents of certain facilities have the right to designate an essential caregiver with whom the facility may not prohibit in-person visitation”.

The amendment, which received nearly 90% of the vote, applies to nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with an intellectual disability, residences providing home and community-based services, or state-supported living centres.

The measure authorises the state legislature to provide guidelines for these facilities to follow in establishing essential caregiver visitation policies and procedures.