As religious services begin to take place throughout the country, faith leaders want assurance they won't be sued if a congregant contracts the coronavirus.
A letter endorsed by more than 300 religious leaders, including pastor Franklin Graham, was sent to Congress on Tuesday asking for the next coronavirus relief package to include legal immunity for religious organizations, Fox News reports.
"In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a proliferation of complex and often contradictory orders and guidelines at the state, county, and local levels, each purporting to govern when and how to reopen," the letter states. "Unfortunately, no religious organization — or any organization — can follow every guideline or order that has been issued around the country.
"We are concerned that some people — and their lawyers — will cherry pick certain guidelines from around the nation in order to assign liability to religious organizations. They might claim that a religious organization or a house of worship was negligent because it did not follow a single recommendation buried deep within a set of guidelines."
The immunity charge is being led by legal nonprofit First Liberty Institute.
"Churches, synagogues, and America's houses of worship have provided critical care, comfort, and calm in the midst of the uncertainty caused by a worldwide pandemic," said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute. "Providing this reasonable measure of protection to religious organizations and houses of worship in America will ensure that they can continue performing their vital functions of serving Americans and ministering to all of our spiritual and physical needs."
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., said he is sending a supporting letter on Tuesday requesting that the Senate Judiciary Committee consider protections for nonprofits.
Johnson told Fox News, "It is imperative that 501(c)(3) nonprofits such as food banks, churches, and homeless shelters, which have made good-faith efforts to follow health and safety guidelines, be protected from the looming threat of COVID-19 liability lawsuits.
"These organizations have been leading the charge in feeding our neighbors spiritually and physically during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be on the frontlines as we begin to recover. Whether such provisions are included in a future COVID-19 package or in stand-alone legislation, we should ensure that these organizations receive equal protections from frivolous lawsuits during these trying times," he added.
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