WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on The Constitution, today introduced the Safeguarding Americans from Coronavirus and Religious Exercise Discrimination (SACRED) Act, legislation that would block federal funding for COVID relief to state and local governments that discriminate against religious individuals or institutions, violating their First Amendment rights.
Upon introducing the SACRED Act, Sen. Cruz said:
“Throughout this pandemic we’ve seen numerous examples of state and local governments instituting discriminatory regulations that unfairly target people of faith and which restrict houses of worship from operating while exempting secular gatherings and operations from the same rules. As Congress continues to provide relief funds to combat the impact of COVID-19, it is crucial that we protect the First Amendment right of religious liberty from discrimination. That’s why I’ve introduced the SACRED Act. By blocking funds from governments that discriminate against religious organizations, we can fairly protect religious liberty and the rights of those who seek to gather together safely for worship.”
Specifically, the SACRED Act would render state or local governments ineligible to use or receive federal COVID-19 relief funds should they be found by the Attorney General to have discriminated against religious individuals or institutions. For those state and local governments found to be ineligible, this bill would require that the Attorney General certify that officials are no longer engaged in religious discrimination before COVID-19 relief funds may again be disbursed
The full text of the legislation can be read here.
Since the coronavirus outbreak occurred in the U.S., Sen. Cruz has warned against the dangers of “pandemic authoritarianism” and urged state and local leaders to protect Americans’ civil liberties as we all work together to combat the deadly virus.
In April, following a disturbing pattern by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio where he targeted Orthodox Jews, Sen. Cruz sent a letter to Attorney General Barr requesting that the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate local officials who target religious communities. Read Sen. Cruz’s letter to AG Barr here and read the DOJ’s rebuke of Mayor De Blasio here.
Sen. Cruz’s legislation comes following the Supreme Court’s recent rejection of a request from a Nevada Church that it be exempt from attendance restrictions that limited the church to 50 worshippers, while casinos and movie theaters in Nevada are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity.
In May, the Supreme Court similarly rejected a challenge to California’s 25 percent occupancy cap on religious worship service attendance.