Alberta allows retail to open at 25 percent capacity, while churches remain at 15 percent
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EDMONTON, Alberta, March 12, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The Alberta provincial government allowed retail businesses an increase in occupancy limits, but offered no such increase to churches, which remain capped at 15 percent. On Monday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that retail businesses can increase their capacity limits to 25 percent.
One Christian pastor says that small size limits on places of worship are a “violation of charter rights” and “accomplish nothing,” as not a single person has been sick or has died from the virus in his church.
“The government’s restriction calling for a 15 percent capacity limit on churches not only is a violation of charter rights, but accomplishes nothing. Neither our congregation nor Grace Life Church, for that matter, have had any COVID infections associated with our worship services,” Pastor Patrick Schoenberger of Heights Baptist Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta, told LifeSiteNews.
Heights Baptist, like other Alberta churches such as Grace Life Church of Spruce Grove — whose Pastor is in jail — and Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, has been admitting worshipers beyond 15 percent capacity and does not make its churchgoers wear masks.
Schoenberger told LifeSiteNews that he does not see his church “as contributing to a public health crisis.” Rather, “we see our church ministering into a public health crisis created by government lockdowns.”
“As far as I know, not a single person has gotten sick or died from attending these worship services. What then is the justification for these limits, where is the scientific evidence? The accusation is made that church services are a threat to public safety, but can this claim be proven in court?”
As it stands, Alberta Health COVID rules allow churches and other places of worship to operate at no more than 15 percent of the capacity allowed by the building fire code. Masks are mandatory, as are the sanitation of hands and keeping away from other people.
The Alberta government’s planned four-stage approach lists a possible increase in church capacity sizes as part of their Stage Three reopening, but the earliest this will come is March 22, as three weeks must pass between stages.
To be able to ease restrictions as part of Stage Three, the number of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 must be under 300. As of this writing, Alberta lists 259 people in the hospital, with 38 in ICU, attributed to COVID-19, which is well below the required Stage Three benchmarks.
While Alberta churches remain limited to 15 percent occupancy, those in neighboring Saskatchewan are allowed 30 percent capacity. In British Columbia, churches are still closed, with Ontario having varying opening limits, depending on what region one lives in.
In Quebec, churches are capped at a 10-person limit, which according to Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec, is “unreasonable and unfair.”
Schoenberger said that open churches are vital to people’s mental and spiritual health, and he does not think it makes sense Alberta’s size limits are lower than other provinces.
“Is there evidence that people in Alberta are twice as likely to transmit COVID?” asked Schoenberger. “Why is our attendance limit half of what Saskatchewan’s is? Is this science or politics?”
LifeSiteNews contacted the office of Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro to inquire why churches remain capped at 15 percent, while retail stores can operate at 25 percent.
Steve Buick, Press Secretary for Shandro, responded by saying that “reopening steps are based on the advice of Dr. Hinshaw and Alberta Health.” Buick noted that he would ask Alberta Health Services to send the reasoning for the size limits. As of press time, no reasoning was provided.
The head of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), John Carpay, whose group is representing jailed Canadian Pastor James Coates of Grace Life, said the Alberta provincial government and Dr. Hinshaw will soon be forced to tell the facts about COVID, instead of merely practicing “fear-mongering through press conferences.”
“The government has a theory that church services are a danger to public health. There’s no evidence that’s been before any court to support that. The government will have to produce some evidence at the trial May 3 to 5,” Carpay said. “At this trial, the government will, for the very first time, have to show the public the science, rather than through engaging in fear-mongering through press conferences.”
In a letter to Kenney, Carpay wrote that Canada’s charter “envisions a ‘free and democratic’ society,” and that under his “permissive watch, Dr. Hinshaw has been permitted to turn Alberta into a police state where neither freedom nor democracy are apparent.”
“It is past time for the Alberta legislature to review all of Dr. Hinshaw’s Orders. And it is far past time for your government to cease its religious persecution,” wrote Carpay.
The Alberta government, along with its health officials, repeatedly stated that the health care system in the province would be overwhelmed were it not for COVID-19 lockdown measures, which have been in place for roughly a year.
However, an internal memo indicated that intensive care unit (ICU) admissions in the Canadian province of Alberta were lower in 2020 than in 2019. According to statistics compiled by the JCCF, based on data from the government, the survival rate in Alberta from COVID-19 is 99.96 percent.
Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney
Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6
Email: [email protected]
To contact your local MLA, visit the link below:
Contact Pastor Coates in jail
18415-127th St NW
Edmonton, AB T6V 1V1
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