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Wisconsin’s church superspreader amendment is dangerous and unnecessary


Badger State senators have taken the first step toward endangering Wisconsinites by preventing government agencies from limiting superspreader church gatherings in the event of a public health emergency. 

A proposed amendment that the Senate just passed would prevent state or local agencies from requiring places of worship to temporarily close, even during public health emergencies.

The FFRF Action Fund, the lobbying arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, urges Wisconsinites to vocally oppose this dangerous proposal. As a constitutional amendment, the measure must pass two consecutive sessions of the Legislature, after which voters would decide whether to add the language to the state Constitution. 

This issue stems from the Covid-19 pandemic, which killed more than 16,000 Wisconsin residents. Like many other states, Wisconsin reasonably sought to avoid superspreader events by prohibiting gatherings where many people shared an enclosed space for an extended period of time, especially if the gathering included talking or singing. Experts quickly identified church services as Covid-19 hotspots, and temporary limits on church gatherings, like Wisconsin’s, undoubtedly saved many lives. Superspreader events endanger not only those in attendance, but also their families and other members of their community.

SJR 54 and its Assembly companion AJR 60 disingenuously try to recast this straightforward public health issue as a question of religious liberty. 

“Wisconsin voters need to know this is nothing more than a reckless political stunt,” comments FFRF Action Fund’s Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne. “Legislators supporting this measure are willing to risk the lives of Wisconsinites in order to perpetuate a false narrative of religious persecution. Churches do not have a right to hold superspreader events, endangering both their congregants and their neighbors.”

The FFRF Action Fund has more than 1,700 advocates in its home state of Wisconsin, who work hard to ensure that lawmakers in Madison implement evidence-based policies, rather than seeking to score cheap political points — as is the case with the church superspreader amendment. 

FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.