In an article published recently in the Vancouver Sun, Brian Bird, Senior Fellow with the Religious Freedom Institute’s North America Action Team, discusses the announcement of onerous COVID-19 restrictions in British Columbia.
Bird notes that “one new restriction stands out as lacking justification” in the way it singles out worship gatherings for special burdens. “It is difficult to understand,” Bird writes, “why physically distant and numerically limited worship is now banned while sports, shopping, and dining continue. How religious gatherings could be more problematic than these activities defies common sense and demands an explanation.”
“There is little evidence that religious gatherings are riskier than many activities that continue. The [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] requires [the provincial government in British Columbia] to disprove this apparent state of affairs if the ban [on religious services] is to persist.”
Read the full article: Banning religious gatherings defies common sense, and perhaps the Constitution.
The ban on in-person worship continues in B.C., along with the wait for a compelling reason why
In a follow up article, also published in the Vancouver Sun, Bird raises concern that the restrictions on religious gatherings in British Columbia remain more severe than secular gatherings. Particularly, Bird takes issue with Dr. Bonnie Henry, a top Canadian health official, who asserts “that faith is ‘not a building’ or ‘about rights.’” Bird argues that Dr. Henry’s statement manifests a clear disregard for the “fundamental importance of sacred space to religious groups.” Consequently, Bird argues:
These restrictions may be exposing a substantial degree of indifference among Canadians toward faith and a growing view that religion is of little value to individuals, let alone to society. There appears to be substantial support for the notion that virtual worship adequately substitutes for worshipping in-person, but many religious rites and obligations simply can’t be fulfilled virtually.
Countering this dangerous disregard for religious beliefs, Bird articulates some major contributions that different religious communities have brought to Canadian society. He declares:
Faith inspires many Canadians to do community service, philanthropy and charitable work. Faith gives many Canadians hope amid trials, including COVID-19. Faith is the school of many virtues that we all endorse.