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If malls can reopen, why can’t churches? San Beda law dean hits ban on religious gatherings

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The dean of San Beda Graduate School of Law is opposing the continued ban on religious gatherings of more than 10 people, saying it is discriminatory.

In his May 18 column for the Manila Times, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino said the government is not in a position to say that religious activities are not as important as economic activities which have been allowed to resume in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ).

Religious gatherings are allowed in areas under GCQ, but for only a maximum of 10 persons.

“Construction work is allowed to resume, provided that the projects are deemed essential. The transport of goods and services is likewise permitted, notwithstanding the fact that from the loading of the goods through their passage through different towns (in the case of land transport), or through different airports or seaports, contact is inevitably made with so many, and malls have opened their doors to surging masses of eager buyers. So, what is the reason that religious assemblies and churches must remain closed, or opened only to not more than 10 or 20 people?” he asked,

Aquino said that while he understands the public health concern over allowing people to gather in places of worship, they should not be barred from doing so if religious leaders have taken all the necessary steps to minimize their risk of catching COVID-19.

“I willingly grant without quarrel that a church packed on a regular Sunday with warm, sweating bodies is a fecund petri dish for the incubation of the dreaded virus. But when our churches take all reasonable measures — insisting on strict spacing between churchgoers, wearing masks, refraining from communion on the tongue, refusing participation in the Precious Blood using the same chalice and limiting the number of participants — then the reasons for the restrictions lose all currency. Worse, they become discriminatory,” he said.

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