Province seeks injunction against B.C. churches that continue to host in-person services
VANCOUVER -- The province has requested an injunction ordering three B.C. churches embroiled in a legal fight over public health orders to stop hosting in-person services.
The Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack, the Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and Langley’s Riverside Calvary Chapel have all continued to host congregations in their places of worship, despite a ban on religious gatherings as part of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions.
The three churches are all part of a constitutional challenge to the order filed in January.
“To see the treatment by the B.C. government of communities of faith in this matter, which is disparate from any other Canadian jurisdiction, it’s alarming,” said Marty Moore, a lawyer with the Alberta-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
That matter is set to be heard in early March, but the government’s request for an injunction forcing the churches to stop hosting services will go before a B.C. Supreme Court justice this Friday.
“It’s an escalation by the government. My clients are taking all the safety protocols to ensure they minimize any risk of transmission," Moore said.
On behalf of the three churches, Moore brought the petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia requesting a judicial review of the prohibition on in-person religious services.
“For the B.C. government to bring forward this application for an injunction against these three petitioner churches doesn’t seem to be necessary to address a serious health risk,” said Moore.
Addressing the media Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix disagreed.
“I think it’s our job, and Dr. (Bonnie) Henry’s job, to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in British Columbia,” Dix said. “And so we support these efforts and we’re very confident that all of the actions that Dr. Henry has taken are consistent with The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Premier John Horgan also weighed in on the matter Wednesday.
“This is not something we initiated. It’s a defensive posture,” he said. “I believe that, as I say, the vast majority of people of faith understand and recognize that they have a responsibility to their loved ones, and those that they don’t even know, to follow health orders to keep everybody safe.”
Moore said he was not in a position to discuss whether the three churches he represents would push ahead with in-person services this weekend if the justice were to grant the province’s request for an immediate injunction.