While the controversy does not appear to have yet arrived in Kamloops, the pandemic-related ban on in-person religious services has led to a battle between some churches and the provincial government that is now going to court.
A number of churches — including some from Kelowna, 100 Mile House, Langley and Chilliwack that have been fined for defying the order banning in-person services — have signed on to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms of Calgary as it argues the ban violates worshipers’ constitutional rights.
Even city councils have weighed in from opposite sides of the debate.
A Langley councillor put forth a motion that would yank the permissive tax exemption status in 2022 from any organization that doesn’t abide by the rules of the provincial health officer. In Vernon, meanwhile, council passed a motion that asks the provincial government to declare in-person worship an essential service, particularly from a mental-health standpoint.
There is no doubt the measures taken because of the pandemic have created damage to the mental health of many. The social isolation of residents in long-term care homes is one example. Regular churchgoers rely on their faith community to help them get through various crises and to connect with friends. But gatherings in churches are known to create a real risk of the spread of COVID-19.
The rules are in place to protect the health of people, based on expert medical knowledge.
While meeting in person is preferred, today’s technology allows the faith community to worship together and support each other.
And these measures should help produce a healthier congregation when in-person worship services eventually resume.