COLUMBIA, S.C. – Governor Henry McMaster and Lieutenant Governor Pamela S. Evette today were joined by faith leaders and members of the General Assembly for a ceremonial bill signing of H. 3105, the South Carolina Religious Freedom Act, a bill that protects places of worship from government overreach and forced closure during states of emergency.
"Throughout the pandemic liberal governors piled on mandates and restrictions that infringed on the rights of their constituents – the most egregious of those mandates were the closure of churches, synagogues, and other places of worship," said Governor Henry McMaster. "The fact that any elected official believed it was within their authority to tell somebody that they couldn’t go to church – the place that provides comfort in times of need and where many feel closest to God and their communities – is truly alarming. This legislation further ensures that South Carolinians’ constitutionally protected right to worship will not be infringed.”
Under the legislation, any places of worship denied their right to worship during declared emergencies can seek declaratory relief and compensatory damages for pecuniary and nonpecuniary losses.
"Religious liberty is one of the founding principles of our state and nation, this bill recognizes that important principle," said S.C. State Representative John McCravy. "This bill ensures that our churches can stay open during the most difficult times when we need church the most."
This bill passed the Senate 39-2 and passed the House 102-9.
"Through this legislation we ensure that no future governor who gets a little power-crazy during a national emergency shuts down these houses of worship," said S.C. State Senator Josh Kimbrell. "It is critical and essential that we can come here, especially in the darkest times."