Open Places of Worship in Ontario

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Dear Premier Ford,

We pray regularly for you and other government officials, especially as you balance competing priorities in response to COVID-19.

As the Christian church, we are called and designed to gather – for Bible teaching, worship, prayer and fellowship. While the government has attended to physical health needs during the COVID-19 response, the church brings essential help for the spiritual and mental health of society. The church ministers to those who are hurting due to grief, isolation, anxiety and other mental health concerns, addictions, and economic hardship. As a church, we are heartbroken over the inability to care effectively for those impacted directly and indirectly by this virus, as each life is sacred.

Religious gatherings remain essential. Constitutional protections for assembly, association and religious freedom remain essential. To violate these rights requires a government to meet a high burden - these rights can only be limited where those limits are demonstrably justified. The purported justification for lockdown measures is to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system; however, it is clear from official Canadian and Ontario data that places of worship do not contribute to the healthcare burden.

We acknowledge that COVID-19 is a serious problem. However, official outbreak data from Ontario shows that less than 1% of all outbreaks in 2020 were at places of worship (Table 1). Similarly, less than 1% of all outbreak cases were due to outbreaks at places of worship (Table 2). Places of worship accounted for only 0.1% (5/3460) of all outbreak-associated hospitalizations in 2020, and places of worship accounted for 0% (0/3681) of all outbreak associated deaths (Table 3).

Places of worship were open for more than six months during the pandemic, starting in June 2020. In that time there were only five hospitalizations and zero deaths associated with outbreaks at places of worship. It is clear that places of worship are not a material risk to the healthcare system, so we urge you, Premier Ford, to allow places of worship to open immediately at a minimum of 30% capacity with appropriate protocols as they did safely for six months in 2020. 

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