Republican lawmakers file bill to protect religious freedoms during emergency lockdowns
Image via AP.

covid church
Some states shuttered churches while allowing select businesses to remain operational.

Two lawmakers are proposing legislation in the upcoming Session to ensure a department store is never more “essential” than a church.

The legislation is a product of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the measures (HB 215 & SB 254), an emergency lockdown or shutdown order must apply equally across businesses and religious institutions in Florida. Republican Sen. Jason Broduer and Rep. Nick DiCeglie are the bill sponsors.

“If we’re going to close down and restrict religious institutions from being open, then we have to apply that same restriction to everybody,” DiCeglie explained to Florida Politics.

DiCeglie pointed to New York and California amid the pandemic, two places where government closed — or narrowed — church doors while allowing some businesses to remain operational.

In California, the Supreme Court intervened after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom banned indoor worship as well as singing or chanting at religious services.

In New York, the Supreme Court determined 10- and 25-person occupancy restrictions violated the First Amendment.

Religious freedoms, among other constitutional rights, are a major concern among his constituents, DiCeglie said.

“I think it’s appropriate public policy that we make sure that we’re never in that situation here in the State of Florida,” added the Indian Rocks Beach lawmaker.

Gov. Ron DeSantis in April 2020 issued a statewide state-at-home order amid the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order, however, exempted religious services.

The carveout marked a key moment in Hillsborough County, where a megachurch pastor was arrested after hosting an in-person service with hundreds of parishioners. Authorities deemed the service in violation of a local ordinance. The ordinance prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people, including at religious institutions. DeSantis later lifted all local emergency orders.

Notably, DiCeglie said the proposals are focused on the future rather than the present. He noted his church in Largo independently decided to host services online.

“They’re the ones that made that decision on their own,” DiCeglie said. “Government didn’t come in and essentially shut them down and I think that that’s a huge difference.”

If signed into law, the measure would take effect July 1.

The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


  • Bennett Marco

    September 30, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    All religion is a dangerous tissue of lies and malarky and rates no protection. Department stores sell things people need and want in the material world, which is the only world we have. This is just the Florida rethug Taliban strutting their ignorance.

  • Alex

    September 30, 2021 at 6:24 pm

    One infected moron in a room full of fat singing trumpublicans huffing and puffing their way making hideous noises that scare cats.


    Super spreader central.

    Bye Grandma!

    (If you can’t see the difference between that and Publix shopping, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote)

    • Alex's Mom

      September 30, 2021 at 7:01 pm

      Baby, you used to go to church and could recite Psalms and Proverbs and sung hyumns beautifully until that Jesus summer camp you went to when the seminary student who turned out to be a perv shaved your balls.

      • Alex

        September 30, 2021 at 7:11 pm


        I REALLY got to you huh troll?

        • Alex's Mom

          September 30, 2021 at 8:29 pm

          Yawn. Baby, you’re the Top Troll at FP.

          • Alex

            September 30, 2021 at 9:19 pm


            I live rent free in your pointy little head.

  • tile installers denver

    September 30, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    Religion and politics have always been an interesting subject. Great read not biased. Thank you

Comments are closed.


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