BELIZE CITY, Wed. Nov. 4, 2020– On Sunday, November 1, police descended on a church service in Blue Creek, Orange Walk District, and arrested 7 persons, mostly pastors, and cited them for being in violation of the recently amended quarantine regulations.
According to police, there were almost 300 people at the Mennonite church. The limit by law, for the number of persons who can be in attendance at a church service, is 10 people. Police also said that the majority of those in attendance at the service were not wearing a mask, nor were physical distancing protocols being observed.
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams called the actions of the pastors “reckless” and argued that the church “was putting its congregation in harm’s way …the police simply enforced the letter of the law.”
The Blue Creek Village chairman, Abram Rempel, said that “the calling of God is higher than the calling of this government,” and that the community plans to continue with the church services this Sunday if the National Oversight Committee (NOC) will not reverse its decision on church fellowship.
The problem is that the NOC has been dissolved in preparation for the holding of general elections next Wednesday, November 11.
Yesterday, Tuesday, the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) fired off a release in support of the Blue Creek pastors, but at the same time, said that the pastors “did the right thing, the wrong way.”
The NEAB, however, did not let the police off the hook. It said, “The church disrespected the law, and the police came to enforce the law.
“But for police to come into a church with families and children, carrying automatic weapons and spouting obscenities as if the church was a cartel, was equally and terribly wrong. Disrespect was met with disrespect, and we’re grateful the situation didn’t deteriorate. It could have all been avoided.”
The NEAB feels that the government has been more oppressive in the restrictions it has imposed on the Church than it has been in its approach to other organizations and entities:
“All across the nation, people began to feel that the church is being singled out. Yet, illegal political rallies and rollouts are taking place with large crowds, pictured on social media, all in flagrant violation of the law, with no consequences.
“Restaurant owners can now make the decisions on how many people for their building size, but churches cannot. Bus drivers can make those decisions, but churches cannot. Resorts, businesses, and various establishments can, but churches cannot. Football teams representing Belize are seemingly above the law of ‘no contact sports.’ Restrictions are now turned into ‘recommendations’ for hotels and resorts, but the Church restrictions remain with penalties!” said the NEAB.
The NEAB asked, “If Orange Walk is having a COVID spike, why lock down Toledo?”
The churches also want “unrestricted outdoor church services with social distancing, masks, and hand washing protocols: this can solve much of the problem by itself. Churches can meet in their parking lot or grass yard,” they said.
With respect to the 10-person limit put on church gatherings, the NEAB said, “Adjust attendance to building size: as with restaurants, the larger the building, the larger the crowd; the smaller the building, the smaller the crowd, all with social distancing, masks, and hand washing protocols strictly adhered to. Sanitize the building afterwards.”
The churches’ release ends by saying, “We urge all churches and citizens to abide by the law. We are also very concerned about the growing disdain for the law, created by Government’s unequal enforcement as it relates to church services, restaurants, sports, and political rallies.”