A journalist posted video of her counting people exiting a church Sunday in Chilliwack, British Columbia, and called their presence in the house of worship a "bold breach" of Canadian COVID restrictions.
What are the details?
Georgie Smyth — who's with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and covers the Vancouver area — appears to be sitting in a vehicle some distance from the church and can be heard on her video counting people as they exit:
I counted more than 60 people inside this church in Chilliwack, a bold breach of PHO orders to suspend gatherings d… https://t.co/tBiodNS2xl— GeorginaSmyth (@GeorginaSmyth)1606694083.0
"I counted more than 60 people inside this church in Chilliwack, a bold breach of [Provincial Health Officer] orders to suspend gatherings due to record high COVID cases," she wrote. "Another church nearby was visited by [Royal Canadian Mounted Police]. Unfortunately both religious leaders decline to speak with us on camera."
How did folks react?
As you might imagine, some observers were appalled at Smyth's keen interest in the church's head count:
- "You actually sat outside of a church...apparently with binoculars and a camera...to spy on people who are trying to worship?" one user asked. "Seriously?!?"
- "I'm proud of your counting skills," one commenter wrote. "Now go use them usefully."
- "National Socialist Alert," another user said.
- "Stalking people at church," another commenter noted. "Our country is sliding into the pits of hell."
- "And once again another proof that Canadian state-run media is not there to inform the public. It's there to inform the state. And that Canada is still NOT A FREE COUNTRY," another user declared.
- "You should reevaluate your priorities if this is what you're choosing to report on," another observer said.
And another person left no doubt as to who the reporter reminded him of:
Image source: Twitter
Smyth was one of three reporters to contribute to a CBC story Sunday about two Chilliwack churches — Free Grace Baptist Church and Free Reformed Church — that are "continuing to offer in-person services despite orders from health officials to suspend the gatherings."
"Our constitution guarantees us the freedom of conscience and religion, which includes peacefully gathering together to worship our God," John Koopman, pastor of the Free Reformed Church, wrote in a statement shared with media this week, the outlet said. "Our constitution is the highest law in our land. Our convictions compel us to worship our God in the public gathering of his people and we must act in accordance with our conscience."
James P. Butler, pastor of Free Grace Baptist Church, in a statement rejected virtual-only worship services, the CBC reported, and argued that people continue to go to grocery stores even though they could shop online.
Butler said "online shopping does not provide everything that an 'in-person' shopping experience can provide," the outlet noted. "In a much greater way, the same is true for the church, especially in a time of pandemic when depression, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, and other mental health challenges are soaring."
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry suspended all in-person faith-related gatherings earlier this month in order to slow the COVID-19 spread, the CBC reported, adding that worshippers were told not to attend services at their gurdwara, synagogue, church, mosque, or temple.