PLP Chairman Says PM Crossed the Line in Telling Church Leaders What to Do
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Fred Mitchell says he believes it is inappropriate for the PM to tell churches how to operate in the COVID-19 pandemic
His comments followed the amended emergency order issued by Prime Minister Hubert Minnis permitting drive thru services for New Providence, Grand Bahama and other islands, not reopened for commercial activities.
Mitchell said, “The Prime Minister is reminded and well advised of the time honored principle of the separation of church and state.”
On Friday, Dr. Minnis signed an order allowing churches to hold drive-thru services effective Saturday, May 23. Services are permitted Saturday and Sunday only during the weekend lockdowns between 7am and 1pm.
But Mitchell called the prime minister’s order, “inappropriate.”
He said, “In outlining the terms and conditions of worship, in our view, the Prime Minister appeared to have crossed the line in seeking to tell the religious community how they should conduct their worship services. This in inappropriate.
“The notion of drive up religious services seems unnecessarily complicated, particularly in the islands where there are no COVID-19 cases,” Mitchell said.
He said the prime minister is meddling with people’s rights to worship freely.
“But even in New Providence the Prime Minister is skirting dangerously close to interfering with freedom of worship,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the decision made by Dr. Minnis on times of worship, are ill considered and unscientific.
“This decision underscores the fact and validates the mounting levels of criticism of the government’s handling of this pandemic that its decisions are not well thought out and are not driven by evidence-based science or expert medical advice but by weighty political considerations brought on by social and political pressures.
The emergency order gives churches permission to hold services under the following conditions:
• Services may only be held as drive-up service where attendees are seated in their vehicles. No sanctuary service is permitted
• Adequate parking must be available to accommodate the drive up service
• Services must be limited to one hour
• Vehicles may only have 4 persons from the same immediate household
• Where an immediate household has more than 4 persons, the church leader is to issue a clear sign to be displayed visibly on the dashboard of the vehicle indicating that the church is familiar with the family and the immediate members exceed 4 persons
• Vehicles must be parked at least three feet apart
• Communion may not be held
• There will be one offering station. Offering baskets may not be passed from vehicle to vehicle
• Persons in high-risk categories are asked not to attend drive-up service, this includes individuals age 65 and older and those with comorbidities.