Have faith in the rules
CREATING PORTRAITS AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Followers of the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — might well wonder why a faith-based gathering in Nova Scotia at the end of October felt it was exempt from that maxim. While regular worship services are considered essential and thus do not require attendees to show proof of vaccination, public health rules governing larger, non-essential get-togethers are clear: “you need proof of full vaccination to participate in discretionary, non-essential events and activities that gather people together.” Surely the event in Amherst that hosted more than 100 people from various churches over multiple days was not a regular worship service. And it should have been clear to the organizers, led by Pastor Robert Smith of the Gospel Light Baptist Church in Amherst, that proof of vaccination was required. In the days since, a COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care home in Pugwash and cases in the Annapolis Valley and Cumberland County have been linked to the event, and three people have died from COVID in those areas. The pastor has been fined $2,422 under the Health Protection Act. Smith has since said from the pulpit that the outcome was “unfortunate” and he had merely “followed what God wanted us to do.” Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, clearly appalled by those comments, said the fines should be higher, and they were increased substantially on Nov. 18. There is nothing to be gained in shaming Pastor Smith, Gospel Light Baptist Church, or any of those who attended the gathering. And it goes without saying that anyone who has fallen ill from COVID-19 or has lost a loved one to the virus deserves empathy and support. However, there is an onus on all of us — Christian or not — to do unto others as we would have done unto us when it comes to public health. We are still in the middle of a pandemic. We owe it to each other to take sensible precautions to ensure we do not spread a virus that has killed more than 200 Atlantic Canadians, 30,000 Canadians and more than five million people worldwide. Canadians are fortunate to have enough people fully vaccinated that we could relax some public health protocols. There are many people in developing countries who would love to be in our situation. But COVID is still very much among us, and the least we can do if we invite a crowd to congregate is to ensure that people are fully vaccinated in order to protect the health of our communities. University students partying en masse at the start of fall semester were roundly criticized for coming together and flouting health protocols. The rules must be followed by all — and enforced within the full extent of the law.