Abbott signs religious freedom law prohibiting government from closing places of worship

HB 1239 prohibits government officials and agencies from ordering houses of worship closed

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law prohibiting government agencies and officials in the state from ordering churches and other houses of worship to close.

The Lone Star State's governor announced the move in a tweet on Tuesday, pledging that Americans’ First Amendment freedoms would be protected in the state by prohibiting the government from issuing orders that "close or have the effect of closing places of worship in the state."

"I just signed a law that prohibits any government agency or public official from issuing an order that closes places of worship," Abbott said in the tweet.

"The First Amendment right to freedom of religion shall never be infringed," he continued.


State Rep. Scott Sanford – a Republican from the Dallas area – filed the bill, HB 1239, which states a "government agency or public official may not issue an order that closes or has the effect of closing places of worship in the state or in a geographic area of the state."

"Churches provide essential spiritual, mental and physical support in a time of crisis," Sanford said about the bill, which passed the Texas House in April. "Closing churches not only eliminated these critical ministries and services, but it violated their religious freedom, guaranteed by our laws and Constitution."

About one year ago, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Abbott issued an executive order that shut down Texas, including houses of worship as they were deemed nonessential.

As a result of the order, the governor was sued and encouraged by faith leaders to reopen houses of worship across the state and categorize them as essential. Abbott later reversed the order.


Meanwhile, in Tuesday's "Ruthless" podcast, Abbott announced Texas would be completing the construction of the wall along the southern border and would be accepting public donations to fund construction.

"I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to, for everybody in the United States, everybody in the entire world who wants to help Texas build a border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute to Texas building the border wall," Abbott said.

"They go to a fund in the state of Texas — not a private entity, not an individual," he added. "They will be received by the state of Texas in the governor’s office, great transparency, everyone will know every penny in, every penny out. But the sole purpose of those funds will be going to build the border wall."

Fox News’ Thomas Barrabi contributed to this report.