Anglican Church questions inconsistencies by health authorities

By Easwaran Rutnam

The Church of Ceylon (The Anglican Church in Sri Lanka) has expressed its deep concern at the anomalies and inconsistencies in the regulations on Covid and public health issued recently.

The Church noted that the regulations permit schools, clubs, gyms, restaurants, cinemas and various other entities to open subject to certain restrictions but retains an almost blanket prohibition on the opening of churches and places of religious observance.

“This is in our view lacks a rational basis, is arbitrary, disproportionate and discriminatory against minority religions in particular,” the Anglican Church said in a statement.

The Church asked that if students can gather in classrooms; people engaged in sport and leisure activities gather in small places and share equipment; if people can exercise in confined and airconditioned spaces or watch films and other forms of entertainment in enclosed airconditioned auditoriums; how can one take the view that a gathering of people for an hour or two in a church or similar building for communal worship subject to the requirements of social distancing, limited numbers and other standard safety precautions, poses a public health risk.

“The illogical and unreasonable restrictions promulgated in the recent set of guidelines, therefore, violate the rights of members of our Church as well as the rights of many other people of all faiths who have been unreasonably denied their right to manifest their freedom of religion and belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching as provided for in Article 14 (1) e of the Constitution,” the statement said.

The Anglican Church said they are compelled to issue the statement as several letters addressed to the relevant authorities seeking clarification on this matter have received no response.

“We recognize the need for restrictions on certain activities in the interests of public health to deal with the pandemic. However, such restrictions cannot be arbitrary and discriminatory in terms of their effect and must be reasonable and have a public health rationale,” the statement said.

The Anglican Church called on the Government to revise their health guidelines to permit religious worship subject to general restrictions on social distancing, numbers base

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