The province banned in-person services at B.C. religious institutions in mid-November, citing confirmed cases of transmission in houses of worship.
On Sunday — for the fifth week in a row — the faithful turned out to Chilliwack’s Free Grace Baptist Church and the Chilliwack Free Reformed Church, which have continued to defy the provincial order.
Despite enforcement threats, Fraser Valley churches again hold in-person services in violation of provincial health order
“As Christians we’re supposed to obey the law, unless it goes against the scripture. We’re called to come together as a congregation,” Mac Cross told Global News.
“I don’t find logic in the current orders right now where I can go to the mall and shop, but I can’t gather here.”
Cross said the church was observing physical distancing, with congregants occupying every second pew, and that people were wearing masks and sanitizing their hands.
“Come to church, find salvation. Don’t worry about a cure. Your soul is saved here. Seek Jesus,” he said.
Coronavirus: Frustration growing over those in B.C. not obeying health orders
Neighbours Global News spoke with Sunday were not happy about the continuing services.
“People are getting sick, and I don’t want to talk about anybody’s religion, but God isn’t going to help them — this is a scientific issue, it’s a medical issue. It’s nonsense,” Michael Schutte said.
“We have kids at school in the neighbourhood and it’s actually quite unsettling that people are not paying attention. It’s a danger to all of us.”
Serap Demirci said she was mystified that people still denied that the virus was circulating, or downplayed the issue.
“We are all frustrated, we are all bored, we are done with this — but we have to do this,” she said.
“We are lucky that we can go out and do outdoor activities to feel better … but there are countries where people are not allowed to go out now.”
Does religious freedom trump public health?
Chilliwack RCMP said this week that it has fined three houses of worship, though police did not specify which ones.
Earlier this week, the BC Civil Liberties Association wrote to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix describing the ban on in-person services as a “disproportionate and unnecessary” restriction on religious freedom.
“To compare these services to a night at the movies or theatre does a disservice to this constitutional right,” the group said.
“For many, worshipping as part of a community is essential to their mental and spiritual health and well-being.”
Fraser Health officials have confirmed cases of transmission in church settings.
Henry and Dix have responded to questions about the ban several times since it was implemented, arguing a gathering in church for an extended period is not the same as visiting a business which has a COVID safety plan in place.
“Faith is not a building,” Henry said in November. “It is not about Sunday mornings, but it is about every day and how we connect with each other and how we support each other.
“It’s not about rights, but it’s about community and responsibility to our fellow citizens.”
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