B.C. health officer seeks injunction against churches violating ban on services

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VANCOUVER — British Columbia's provincial health officer and attorney general are asking for a court injunction ordering three churches to follow public health rules banning in-person religious services.

The application in B.C. Supreme Court comes after the churches filed a petition challenging the province's prohibition on services, arguing they violate people's rights and freedoms.

The Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, the Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack filed the petition last month.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says in her response to the petition that the ban on indoor gatherings, including in-person religious services, is necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

She says transmission of the virus seems highest in settings of sustained interpersonal interaction indoors or in enclosed spaces, and loud talking, chanting and singing also increase spread.

The churches are represented by a Calgary-based advocacy group, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which questions in a statement why people can gather in stores, gyms and bars but not places of worship.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2021.

The Canadian Press