In the summer of 2020, a group of Christian churches in the province of Manitoba filed a lawsuit against government officials because they claimed the COVID restrictions that limited the size of public gatherings — which also applied to them, like everyone else — violated their religious freedom. Specifically they said Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed their ability to meet in person.
The province’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin defended the restrictions at the time, comparing churches to movie theaters: It was simply unsafe to have lots of people, indoors, in small spaces, no matter the reason.
His point — as all reasonable people understood — was that government officials weren’t trying to hinder religious freedom. They had an obligation to protect public health, and this is what the science said needed to be done. Treating churches like other similar gathering spaces was only fair.
It’s taken a long time to decide the case — and a lawyer for the churches even hired someone to stalk the judge — but Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba has finally issued his ruling: The public health orders were “justified and reasonable,” he declared. The churches have lost.
Joyal concluded that public health orders, as legislative instruments, can’t be seen as threats of force in the context of the criminal code, and that people were still free to perform services remotely.
Furthermore, the orders had been made lawfully.
… the judge said, after the restrictions were put in place, COVID-19 numbers began to decline in Manitoba, which was consistent with what the province’s science and modelling predicted.
“Manitobans flattened the curve and avoided a disastrous situation,” said Joyal.
The decisions, which read in excess of 150 pages, also confirms the province’s stance that the orders were no more restrictive than was necessary, as required by law.
The judge said in more than 150 pages what any sane person could have told you in a single sentence: There was never any Christian persecution when it came to COVID restrictions. Literally no government officials, in Canada or the U.S., have used the pandemic to prevent the spread of Christianity, as so many conservatives would have you believe. The only goal has been to block the spread of the other virus.
It’s the right decision. It’s an acknowledgment that public safety was at the center of the debate. But these conservative Christians, who act like the world revolves around them, never cared about anyone but themselves.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Ken for the link)