“Freedom of religion can be limited when the exercise of it can interfere with the rights of others,” the provincial appeal court declared on June 19.
The seven churches had launched a Constitutional challenge to the Manitoba government’s decision in March of 2020 to invoke the province’s Emergency Measures Act and Public Health Act.
The edict forced all churches and places of worship to only allow five people at a time to attend services, effectively closing weekly fellowship. Weddings and funerals were also limited to five attendees.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) represented the following churches: Gateway Bible Baptist Church, Pembina Valley Baptist Church, Redeeming Grace Bible Church, Grace Covenant Church, Slavic Baptist Church, Christian Church of Morden, and Bible Baptist Church.
The churches contended that the Covid mandates violated their religious freedom under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In June of 2021, Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that the Covid church lockdowns could be justified on the basis of public health.
“The pandemic’s presence in Manitoba demanded decisive action in order to reduce the spread of the virus and in order to flatten the curve,” he argued.
The churches appealed that decision, maintaining that Joyal’s judgment contained errors.
The appeal court’s decision insisted that closing churches only “minimally impacted the rights in question.”
“This case is one of a number across the country where various provisions aimed at curbing the transmission of COVID-19 have been challenged,” the Manitoba Court ruled.
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