Spartanburg, SC (WSPA) – The SC State House passed the “Religious Freedom Act” last week, which would designate church as an essential service in an emergency.
While churches are considered a place of refuge for the soul, in passing this bill, it gives congregations and church leaders the footing they need in order to keep their congregations together.
Macedonia Baptist church in Spartanburg is a lively church that’s filled with love and laughter, when the pandemic hit, church leaders started planning ways to keep the congregation of 1700 connected.
“Going through this pandemic, not having the place, the place not being opened for your spirit to be healed, for your mind to be healed, for you to get a sense of what god is doing in your life and what god is doing in the community around you, caused people to try to do this on their own and I think the end result was a lot of challenge.” Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, Pastor, Dr. Keith McDaniel said.
Concerned that closing churches would violate the freedom of religion provision in the U.S.Constitution, instead Governor McMaster allowed them to operate while following safety protocols and occupancy rules.
As a pre-caution, the predominantly African American congregation at Macedonia closed its doors, but continued creatively serving people.
“I Pastor a predominantly African American congregation and this pandemic has hit black and brown communities a lot harder.”
House Bill 3105 also known as the ‘South Carolina Religious Freedom Act’, passed the house and is headed to the senate.
The bill would ensure that during a state of emergency, religious services are deemed an essential service and considered necessary.
Representative Rosalyn Henderson-Myers serves voters in District 31, which includes Spartanburg.
“What they’re doing is they’re being proactive, such that if there is another emergency that comes along, then churches will deem to be essential businesses and can stay open.” South Carolina, Democrat, District 31, Representative, Rosalyn Henderson Myers said.
While the bill ensures religious organizations will be able to keep their doors open, those who are concerned about how vaguely the bill is written says it opens the door for other activities.
For Pastor McDaniel taking care of people on all fronts is important for their overall well-being and gathering in a secrete space is essential.
“That nurse that’s gotta go to work on Monday morning, that doctor that has to sit with a family, they need me on Sunday.” Pastor McDaniel said.
While many sanctuaries’ like this have found ways to stay socially distant, some pastors say that they’ve found that the connection, that community is just as essential as food and water.
The ‘Religious Freedom Act” passed the house with a 73 to 39 vote and is expected to pass in the republican controlled senate.