Cruz Introduces Bill to Withhold COVID Relief Funds Over Religious Discrimination
Republican senator makes push for religious freedom of Americans
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has introduced a new bill aimed at protecting the religious freedoms of American citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Texas senator is calling for coronavirus relief funds to be withheld from local governments found to be discriminating against residents over their religion.
Cruz introduced the proposal on Tuesday that would render state and local governments ineligible for federal relief funds should they breach the legislation.
The funding would be withheld if the attorney general deems local officials are discriminating against religious individuals or institutions.
The bill is titled the Safeguarding Americans from Coronavirus and Religious Exercise Discrimination (SACRED) Act.
According to the text of the SACRED Act, the bill endeavors “to ensure that a State or local jurisdiction is ineligible to receive or use funds allocated, appropriated, or authorized to address COVID-19 if that State or jurisdiction discriminates against religious individuals or religious institutions, and for other purposes.”
The bill goes on to stipulate that a state or local governments is ineligible if it:
(1) enforces, or announces the intent to enforce, any law, regulation, policy, order, proclamation, or decree related to COVID-19 that discriminates against religious individuals or religious institutions; or (2) provides, or shows an intention to provide, covered funds to a separate State or local jurisdiction that is ineligible to receive or use those funds because the State or local jurisdiction has committed a violation described in paragraph (1).
Attorney General Bill Barr, who has repeatedly expressed his belief that religious freedom is foundational to American liberty, is to determine which governments are guilty of discrimination, the bill goes on to say.
Cruz’s bill comes as religious people throughout the country have increasingly resisted lingering coronavirus lockdown mandates that forbid large assembly both in houses of worship and other establishments, according to The Daily Wire.
Cruz told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “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,” Cruz continued.
“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.”
In April, Cruz sent a letter to Barr urging the Justice Department to remain vigilant against instances of potential religious discrimination in New York City, especially instances of anti-Semitism.
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed.”
Cruz wrote to Barr that singling out any religion like that “is dangerous in and of itself.
"But it is especially dangerous to single out the Jewish community in a city that is experiencing a substantial rise in violent anti-Semitism.”
When protests broke out nationwide and riots roiled New York City in June, de Blasio claimed such demonstrations were different than the religious gatherings that had been shut down.
“When you see a nation, an entire nation, simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism,” he said during a press conference.
“I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”