The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate was scheduled to vote Tuesday on an amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit government agencies from ordering churches to shut down during a state of emergency.
The amendment comes in reaction to a stay-at-home order Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued in 2020 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The then-conservative-leaning state Supreme Court struck down Evers’ order, but Republicans introduced the constitutional amendment to ensure similar orders cannot be issued in the future.
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Under the proposed amendment, state or local agencies could not force places of worship to close or limit the size of their gatherings during a national, state or local emergency, including public health emergencies.
Evers vetoed a similar bill from Republicans in 2021, but the governor cannot veto a constitutional amendment. Amendments to the Wisconsin Constitution must be passed by two consecutive sessions of the Legislature and then ratified by voters in a statewide election. Tuesday’s vote was the first time the Senate was set to consider the amendment.