State Representative Ty Bodden (R-Hilbert) has introduced legislation that would amend Article I Section 18 of our state constitution by prohibiting government at any level from closing down churches or forbidding gatherings during a state or national emergency.
Article I Section 18 of our state constitution contains the very clear declaration regarding our freedom of worship and liberty of conscience.
“I’m proud to have introduced a constitutional amendment that would restore one of our most basic rights as Americans," said Bodden. "The Constitution of the United States is clear when it states that the government has no place of establishing religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof. Introducing this should not be necessary, but unfortunately during COVID, many of our rights were thrown out the window. It’s time to right the wrongs of the past and do what we can to prevent those rights from ever being taken from us again. This is a good first step.”
Events over the last several years made it very clear that every level of government can pretty easily abuse its power and infringe upon this foundational freedom in a declared emergency, despite the fact that one of the main purposes of a constitution is to protect rights and freedoms in emergencies.
In response to the COVID lockdowns, nine states, including Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee, implemented similar legislation. It's time for Wisconsin to do the same and protect the fundamental freedom of every individual to attend church and express their religious beliefs as they see fit, regardless of what is going on in the world or even right at our doorstep.
Shutting down places of worship is the act of a tyrannical government. When government can prevent churches from operating normally and prevent people from attending those churches, be they Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques, or Buddhist or Hindu temples, our religious freedom is directly threatened because government is interfering with religious practice.
This proposal would ultimately need to be passed by Wisconsin voters on a statewide ballot. We should all agree that churches' right to operate and every individual's fundamental right to attend their chosen place of worship, regardless of the circumstances, are protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and Article I, Section 18 of our state constitution.