Updates on Worship Service Restrictions in British Columbia
Update #1: Injunction Against Churches Dismissed
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of British Columbia denied the government’s request for an injunction against a number of churches in British Columbia that continue to carefully hold corporate worship services contrary to the provincial health order in accordance with their conscience.
This is not the final decision in this court case.
An injunction is a temporary court order designed to force a specific group of people to do or not do something until the court makes a final decision on their case. In this instance, the government was asking the court to force three churches in Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack not to hold worship services until the broader case was decided.
The hearing for the case is scheduled for March 1-3, but the final decision could be months away.
This injunction would have put these churches in a very difficult situation, as violating a court injunction is a criminal offence that could, if enforced to the fullest extent allowable, result in imprisonment. We are very thankful the injunction was denied, as it would have allowed police officers the discretion to detain anyone who organizes, attends, or intends to organize or attend a worship service at these three churches.
You can read Justice Hinkson’s full decision on the injunction here.
Update #2: Judgement on ARPA’s Legal Intervention Delayed
ARPA Canada has applied to intervene in the above-mentioned legal case between several churches that have continued to worship in British Columbia and the British Columbia government. Although we expected to hear whether we would be granted intervener status on February 10th, Justice Hinkson delayed his decision on our application until March 1st.
To be clear, an intervener does not take the side of one of the parties in a court case, but rather comes as a “friend of the court.” The purpose of interveners is to give the court a perspective and arguments other than those of the parties involved in the case.
When ARPA Canada intervenes in a court case, we do so to fulfill our mission of “bringing a biblical perspective to our civil governments.” We do so in line with our core principles (usually intervening in cases pertaining to life, freedom, family, etc.) The purpose of intervening is to be a blessing to the court by helping it to understand the issues at hand from our particular Reformed Christian perspective and to try to ensure that, as the law develops through a particular case, it does so in a way that accommodates our religious and philosophical commitments as much as possible.
Intervening in a case does not necessarily imply support or opposition for one of the parties in the case. Instead, ARPA Canada’s role would be to help the court understand a particular angle or perspective that is in line with our core principles.
Read more about what is involved in a legal intervention in the last section of this article.
Update #3: A Timetable for a Return to In-Person Worship
The provincial leaders last updated their public health orders on February 5th. In previous updates (November 17th, December 9th, and January 9th), the province always said that they would reconsider the orders at a specified future date. During their last briefing, Dr. Henry said that they would be constantly reconsidering whether to lift particular aspects of the public health order. Thus, the duration of the current ban on in-person worship services is indefinite. There is no date upon which it will expire, but it could also be rescinded at any time.
At the very end of their February 5th press conference, Dr. Henry hinted that restrictions around in-person worship could be relaxed by the end of February. She did not elaborate on precisely what conditions would be necessary for her to relax these restrictions, but she did mention that it is something that is on her agenda.
Update #4: ARPA Makes Another Radio Appearance
On February 18th, British Columbia Manager Levi Minderhoud appeared on CKNW’s Mike Smyth show for the third time in four months to discuss the inconsistency of the public health orders as they apply to in-person worship and how they infringe on our freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. Give the radio interview a listen!