A number of progressivist churches in Ontario have decided to continue with proof of vaccination requirements for their congregants despite the province having gotten rid of its vaccine passport system.

The Ontario government lifted proof of vaccination requirements and capacity limits on Mar. 1, with the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore stating vaccine policies were “no longer necessary.

Unlike some other provinces including Quebec, places of worship in Ontario were never mandated to require proof of vaccination, although some congregations voluntarily opted to do so.

True North has identified a number of Ontario congregations that have opted to continue restricting the unvaccinated from in-person worship, including three in the Ottawa area. 

The Trinity United Church in Ottawa, which describes itself as “an open-minded, inclusive and progressive community,” is maintaining its proof-of-full-vaccination and masking requirements for those 12 and older who wish to attend in-person services.

The church’s website states that they are maintaining the policy “to provide the safest environment possible for the congregants.”

A similar policy is remaining in place at the Rideau Park United Church. They are requiring anyone eligible, including children five to 11, to be vaccinated to attend worship services, funerals and weddings.

The church says they will review their vaccination requirement at their next council meeting in April.

Ottawa’s Centretown United Church, which has been closed since Dec. 18 due to the Omicron variant, is planning to reopen for in-person services on Mar 13. 

They, too, have stated they will be maintaining proof of vaccination and distancing. “For the safety of all those attending, we will continue to mandate proof of vaccination, social distancing, and you must wear a mask at all times,” reads their website.

True North also found other progressivist congregations that appear to be following their own timelines for lifting proof-of-vaccination policies. These include Toronto’s Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church and Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts, headed by former NDP MPP and left-wing activist Cheri DiNovo, dubbed “The Queer Evangelist”.       

DiNovo’s church has stated that it plans to keep checking for proof of vaccination until Mar. 21. The church has also said it will continue mandating masks even after Ontario’s mask mandate is lifted on March 21

Requiring congregants to be vaccinated to attend church services has proven one of the most controversial COVID restrictions, with many pastors feeling it is wrong to deny someone access to their place of worship based on vaccine status. 

True North spoke with Dr. Aaron Rock, a Windsor, Ontario pastor who has been critical of government COVID-19 restrictions on places of worship, to get his thoughts on the matter.

Rock said that it is the Scriptures, not church or state, that dictate the terms and conditions of church worship and ministry. 

“Neither church nor magistrate possess the God-given authority to restrict worship based on vaccination status. To impose such a rule violates the sincerely-held beliefs of many worshippers, contributes to congregational disunity and robs desperate people from accessing the services of their church,” he said.

All the churches identified in this story belong to the United Church of Canada, a denomination that has strongly supported COVID-19 restrictions and whose congregations have mostly been reliant on “Zoom church” during the pandemic.

The United Church expects all ministry personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and states those who choose otherwise “may be found to be acting contrary to the ethical standard that calls upon them to be sensitive to the vulnerabilities of all.”

The progressivist denomination is also known for marching in LGBTQ pride parades, supporting abortion, allowing atheists to be ministers and opposing Israel.

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