On Tuesday Representative Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) and Senator Kim Hammer (R – Benton) filed H.B. 1211 recognizing that religion and religious organizations are essential in Arkansas.

Family Council President Jerry Cox released a statement, saying, “This is a good bill. Public officials have the authority to protect health and public safety, but the First Amendment – including the free exercise of religion – is never suspended. H.B. 1211 ensures our government shall never close churches and other houses of worship even during a disaster or other emergency.”

Cox said H.B. 1211 will protect churches and religious groups without hampering the government’s ability to respond during a pandemic. “H.B. 1211 protects houses of worship from being singled out during an emergency the way they have been in other states. The bill prevents the government from penalizing a house of worship or other religious group that continues to hold services during an emergency. The bill also requires that churches and religious groups comply with the same basic health and safety standards everyone else does.”

Cox said the bill ensures that religious groups and charities are able to continue serving their communities during an emergency. “Churches, religious organizations, and charities provide support and stability to people in their communities during an emergency. They need to be free to serve people without worrying that the government might penalize them for it. H.B. 1211 helps make sure these groups continue to serve our state, and it makes sure that Arkansans are able to continue exercising their religious liberties even during a pandemic.”

Family Council is a conservative education and research organization based in Little Rock.