Churches should follow COVID-19 guidelines for their own safety

A group of churches are taking the B.C. government to court over social restrictions

The Riverside Calvary Chapel. (Kyler Emerson)

COVID-19 has impacted our daily lives for several months now, and cases are rising everywhere, including B.C. Everyone should be following protocols placed by the B.C. government to slow down infection rates and “flatten the curve.”

As more vaccines are on the way this spring, following social distancing rules remains paramount. However, some churches in the province seem to have different thoughts about the virus and the necessity of enacting restrictions to slow its spread.

A group of 16 individuals and churches are taking the provincial government to court to fight the ban on in-person religious services.

Included are the Langley Riverside Calvary Chapel, the Kelowna Harvest Fellowship, the 100 Mile House Baptist Church, Marty Moore, a lawyer with the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, and three Chilliwack churches.

Members of this group have accumulated thousands of dollars in fines for not following rules relating to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, including $4,600 in fines given to the Langley Riverside Calvary Chapel. The Chilliwack churches have also been fined $18,400 for similarly being in violation of the restrictions.

The group argues that the ban on in-person services is a violation of the constitutional rights of worshippers. Some people having little to no access to technology to take part in online services is also another problem the group has with the ban.

Section Two of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees religious and conscious freedom. However, in Section One, the rights of Canadians can also be restricted due to “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Health officials within the province have insisted the restrictions are reasonable considering the circumstances. Placing a limit on the number of attendees, ensuring people are enough distance apart from each other, and providing hand sanitizers are among the precautions included, according to Moore.

During a time where the number of cases and deaths are increasing faster, especially with confirmation that both the U.K. variant and the South African variant are in B.C. now, I argue that it is best for the churches to follow the restrictions the government has placed on the rest of the province.

It has been ten months since the world has gone on a global lockdown to curb the spread of the virus, ignoring the protocols now would just continue to add to the rising number of cases recorded in this province.

While B.C. finally has access to vaccines from sources such as Pfizer and Moderna now, some time is still required before the vaccine will be effective and some kind of return to normalcy can be achieved. This means restrictions must be followed for the time being, including the extended ban on all social gatherings until midnight on Feb. 5.

Compared to other services, this group has little reason and justification for going to court against the government over these restrictions, and hope they can think of the other people doing what they can to make sure everyone survives the pandemic as unscathed as possible.