Manitoba service not enforcing social distancing because church has 'no authority' to do so
Government and health authorities have no right to tell worshipers to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, including the wearing of masks, because only God has that authority, according to a minister in Manitoba.
“We can’t force anyone to wear a mask,” said Church of God Restoration minister Tobias Tissen during a court hearing on Monday, according to a Global News report.
“We are not counting and we have no authority, scripturally based and based on Christian convictions, to limit anyone from coming to hear the word of God.”
Tissen appeared in court to answer a 10-minute video for a service from inside his church in January, where he can be clearly seen, and no one was physically distancing or wearing a mask.
During the hearing, Justice Denis Guennette said he counted roughly 60 people in the pews and 38 children singing, and then asked Tissen if that was accurate.
“Probably, pretty close,” replied Tissen.
In Tissen’s church, which has a capacity to house 140 people, people are not required to wear masks, he said. However, current restrictions limit those gatherings to 25 per cent or 10 people, whichever is smaller.
Over the past several months, his church has been fined more than $40,000 for holding services contrary to public health orders, according to the report.
Tissen’s church is one of seven rural Manitoba churches challenging the constitutional right of the province’s Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, to implement sweeping restrictions in the face of a health emergency.
The churches argue that Roussin’s health orders were implemented without debate or consultation.
However, different parts of the world also had to adapt certain health and safety orders to ensure they can deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.