The Main Goal Of A Newly Proposed Bill, By Representative Rusty Grills, Is To Keep The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency From Imposing Unlawful Restrictions On Churches During Emergencies.
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Published March 12, 2021
[The Tennessee Conservative Staff] –
A new bill proposed by Representative Rusty Grills, from the 77th district, would limit the authority of county health officers in Tennessee if passed.
On March 9, the Civil Justice Subcommittee voted to send the house bill forward to the full committee for another round of voting.
The goal of the bill is mainly to keep the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency from imposing unlawful restrictions on churches during emergencies. A companion bill in the state Senate proposes the same thing.
If passed, the bill “limits the present law authority of county health officers to order quarantines to protect the public health from an epidemic, and closures of public establishments by prohibiting county health officers from issuing an order that closes or limits the lawful operations of a church or religious organization and declaring any such order that it issues to be void and unenforceable.”
It also “adds to present law by prohibiting the state, a political subdivision, or a public official from prohibiting or imposing additional restrictions on the lawful operations of a church or religious organization during a state of emergency, major disaster, or natural disaster.”
While the house bill is sponsored by Grills, the senate bill is being sponsored by Janice Bowling and Joey Hensley. In the Civil Justice Subcommittee, Grills said the bill only includes church services. It would not extend to any extracurricular activities at the church, such as basketball or football programs.
During a radio interview with The Tennessee Star on Thursday, Grills said, “The goal of this legislation is just to protect churches and make sure liberty the religious freedom that we are guaranteed by the Constitution is not infringed upon.”
He also said, “I just don’t believe that the governor by the stroke of a pen should be able to stop religious services. Everyone is worried to death about their physical well-being. But at the same time, our spiritual well-being is important because it has eternal value. So we need to make sure that our churches have the doors open and willing and ready to allow congregations to meet.”
Grills has said he is comfortable with where the bill is at right now, after talks with several legislators on the committees. However, he added it is hard to feel good about it until signed by the Governor.
In February, the senate companion bill was referred to the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The house bill will be voted on by the Civil Justice Committee on March 17. During the radio interview, Grills mentioned another bill he is sponsoring, the Farm Protection Bill.
Grills said, “We have a huge problem with agriculture vandalism over in West Tennessee and across the river counties.”
This bill would protect farms and farmers in the event of vandalism.
“Looks like we’re getting some traction on that. I believe we’ve got it right at 40 co-sponsors, which I’m pretty proud of that. I feel like that’s moving forward a little. We’re going to get that passed here in the next couple of weeks and over in the Senate,” Grills said.