Give Churches a Fair Consideration in Ontario's Reopening Plan

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Petition to the Ontario Government concerning Churches and the Reopening of the Province

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 40)

Beloved elected officials: Premier, Ministers and MPPs of our great province. Today, more than ever, as the world suffers from the COVID-19 Pandemic, we affirm our belief in this teaching that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ gave us: We have the duty to protect and serve the least of the Lord’s brothers and sisters including the sick, the elderly and the vulnerable.

From this golden rule, Christians in Ontario were fast to abide by the Civil and Health Authorities’ directives to not congregate and gather physically, to help limit the spread of the virus. Our communities learned a great deal from this experience, especially during the holiest of our seasons: Great Lent, Holy Week and Easter (Pascha).

We are writing to both thank you for your leadership and prudence, and to affirm that we will continue to adhere to the recommendations and directives given to protect the well-being of  all people. We are also writing to ask the government to give serious consideration as to how to fairly include Churches and places of worship in its plan to reopen the province.

Faith has been a refuge and a source of healing for many people around the world during this pandemic, especially for the Christians of this province, which many statistics have shown to comprise around two thirds of the population. Faith is, for many, the path towards mental and spiritual health, and ultimately, physical well-being.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission states that Freedom of religion includes “the practices, beliefs and observances that are part of a faith or religion” as long as it “doesn’t interfere with others’ rights, safety or health concerns”. An important “practice” of Christianity is to congregate and worship in Churches. When it interfered with health concerns, we ceased this practice.

Now, as the province phases its safe reopening plan, and gives the green light to entities like restaurants, hair salons, different retail etc. to reopen, in due time, we ask that Churches, the spiritual and mental haven for many, are given a fair chance to congregate while ensuring they follow the same health and safety regulations required from all entities.

What we are asking is for Churches and places of worship to not be placed at the absolute bottom of the list of entities given the green light to reopen, but rather, to take into consideration factors that allow churches to safely reopen. Some suggestions might be: (A) to allow Churches to reopen and congregate while maintaining social distancing measures: 6 feet between households, masks if required, washing hands or sanitizing upon entering and before leaving; (B) to not cap the number of people gathering in Churches randomly, but to rather make the limit proportional to building size and capacity; and (C) to give the green light for outdoor services that might allow more people to worship together safely.

This petition is to reaffirm our commitment to safety and to ask to be given as fair a consideration as other entities when reopening the province. 

May God protect our province and country and the entire world. We thank you for your work and for considering this request.