BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC)— The National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) has objected to a government vaccine mandate imposed on churches.
In an October 15 letter sent to Prime Minister John Briceno, the NEAB said it was surprising to learn about the stipulation being placed on churches when it was “not discussed or agreed upon,” in a meeting held between the parties on October 6.
NEAB wrote that it would not have supported such a move if the conversation had come up during that meeting.
“We discussed with you about churches at 50 percent capacity, mask-wearing, social distancing and sanitising and that Pastors would be responsible for applying COVID protocols with their churches. There was nothing about “vaccinated only” for church,” the NEAB said.
“It goes against the very core calling of the Church to tell people that they cannot join Church meetings. The Church must be open to all who come to seek God and abide by basic protocols,” the NEAB said, indicating a willingness “to discuss this with you first before such a policy goes into effect”.
Health and Wellness Minister, Michel Chebat, said the new measures require that only vaccinated persons attend churches.
“I have not been asked to review it or look at it. I cannot say if other members of the Cabinet or the Prime Minister has been approached. But I am sure if that is the case, it is going to be raised at the Cabinet meeting,” he said.
“The responsibility really starts with each one of us. We all must take responsibility for our actions, and we must get vaccinated because we know what the consequences could be if we don’t. Here we have a situation where the churches are reopening, and the pastors, for better or for worse, are in charge of the churches. So, they are the legal authority over their church, over their building. And so, they must be the one held responsible to ensure compliance to the public health measures,” the Health Minister said.
Since March last year, Belize has recorded 473 deaths and 25, 244 positive cases linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.