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Republican lawmakers pitch constitutional amendment to keep Wisconsin churches open

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin Republicans want to make sure churches in the state are kept open during the next emergency.

State Sen Cory Tomczyk, R-Mosinee, along with Rep. Ty Bodden, R-Hilbert, and Rep. Karen Hurd, R-Fall Creek, took a proposed constitutional amendment to a Senate committee on Tuesday. If the amendment becomes law, it would stop public health managers from closing churches.

“My concern is grave,” Hurd said. “As an unconscionable threat to our very democracy, our representative Republic, and the freedoms of every citizen of the state of Wisconsin is before us. This threat is the disregard of our natural and constitutional right to the freedom of religion.”

Wisconsin saw its churches closed during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.

Tomczyk doesn’t want to see that happen again.

“When it comes to my American and Wisconsin right to worship how I want to, I don’t give a damn what the governor says,” Tomczyk added. “And anytime we can strengthen those rights, we should.

Bodden said all places of worship should be protected.

“Places of worship for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, or any other practicing religions should not be closed by any level of government at any time,” Bodden said. “Doing so interferes with religious practice, and undermines the foundation of this state and union.

Nine states – including Arizona, Florida, North Dakota, and South Carolina – currently have similar no-closing laws.

Sen. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, however, questioned whether Wisconsin needs a constitutional amendment to keep churches open.

“Is it necessary, given that we already have what are, I would say, pretty strong protections in our state and federal constitution?” Jacqie asked.

“This shouldn’t be necessary,” Bodden answered. “But, in order to bring light to it, and hopefully right some of the wrongs this needs to be talked about. And we need to move forward with everything we can to protect these rights.”

The amendment would have to pass through the legislature twice, then go to Wisconsin voters before taking effect.

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