(RNS) — Texas voters on Tuesday (Nov. 2) overwhelmingly supported a measure barring governments from taking any kind of action that limits religious services, such as the public health orders that shut down houses of worship and businesses earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proposition 3, which will add a clause to the Texas Constitution forbidding state or local authorities from prohibiting or limiting religious services, garnered 62.4% of votes, according to unofficial results from the Texas secretary of state.
The measure had the support of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops and some other — but not all — religious groups.
John Greiner, who pastors the nondenominational Glorious Way Church in Houston, called the measure crucial. He said individual churches and people who go to church “should be in charge of their own health care decisions, their own risks-to-reward behaviors.”
“The church should be the place where people go to get healed. There’s lots of churches and some don’t believe in healing. … They should be free to close if that’s what they want to do, but I don’t think that the government should impose that upon any group at all,” Greiner told Religion News Service.
Amanda Tyler, executive director for the Baptist Joint Committee, said the measure was overly broad and unnecessary. She previously told RNS it sends “a damaging message that religious people are more concerned about special treatment than they are about the good of their communities.”
Tyler said Texas already has strong protections, pointing to the state’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act “that we believe provides the right balancing standard to decide issues in the free exercise rights of individuals and communities (that) might come into conflict with government interests.”