FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: State Rep. Jon Echols
Phone: (405) 557-7354
In its inaugural meeting Wednesday morning, the House States Rights Committee approved legislation to protect religious freedom and the constitutional right to worship.
Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, authored House Bill 2648, or the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, which dictates that anything closing places of worship would be considered a substantial burden on people’s freedom of religion.
He said he filed the bill after witnessing how many religious organizations were unable to meet for several weeks due to government restrictions on the size of gatherings or emergency orders that did not deem places of worship as essential.
“Our country was founded on the premise of religious freedom for all, but we have seen and continue to see situations across the country where Americans’ right to worship has been trampled and ignored by overreaching bureaucracy,” Echols said. “A person’s sincerely held faith is an integral part of their life, especially how they cope with difficulties, and forcing places of worship to close for weeks or months at a time during a state of emergency or crisis is un-American and goes against the very core of our nation.”
Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, who co-authored the legislation, presented the bill before the committee.
“For many like myself, my faith is as essential as the food I eat or the air I breathe,” Hill told the committee. “And I think that is constitutionally protected by our First Amendment and by our Oklahoma Constitution.”
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
House Bill 2648 passed committee 5-1 and is now available to be considered on the House floor.