Vernon council passes motion to support places of worship as an essential service

'Worship is essential'

Vernon city council will write to the provincial government, urging places of worship be made an essential service.

Coun. Scott Anderson brought the motion before council Monday, and all but Mayor Victor Cumming and Coun. Brian Quiring supported the motion.

Anderson, who said he does not attend church, brought the motion forward “because I was requested to by a representative of the Canadian Reform Church of Vernon, a house of worship with which I had no previous connection and anticipate no future connection.

“I subsequently spoke with other faith leaders. I am bringing the motion forward as a representative of the public, including some members of the faith community, because their request to deem houses of worship as 'essential services' was, to my mind, so reasonable.”

Anderson said it makes sense for places of worship to be on the same level as “pubs and restaurants and cannabis stores and big box stores and airplanes and small junk removal companies.”

Anderson pointed out churches play an important role in society.

Places of worship have been closed since March 2020 due to COVID distancing protocols.

“Houses of worship serve a very real material function in the community. Houses of worship distribute food, help maintain mental health, and carry out much needed community outreach. Just to name one among many examples across this country, Sikh temples cook on the spot and serve thousands of meals to hungry people, some temples serving food every day,” said Anderson.

There was some concern among council about spreading COVID, but Anderson said there would be protocols in place, and the houses of worship wouldn't operate as they did pre-pandemic.

Earlier this month, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms filed a petition in B.C.'s Supreme Court arguing Dr. Bonnie Henry's order prohibiting indoor social gatherings and events, including in-person church services, is unconstitutional.

The organization says it is representing seven B.C. churches and nine individuals, after more than a dozen $2,300 tickets were issued to B.C. faith organizations and individuals. Their clients include the Kelowna Harvest Fellowship, which was handed a $2,300 ticket for holding an in-person service on Dec. 19.

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