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Petitioners urge to lift government's ban on church gatherings

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

Over 330,000 people have signed a petition asking to the government to cancel the health authority’s decision to ban small gatherings and meetings in churches on the government‘s online public petition platform as of Friday.

The public petition was first posted on the website on Wednesday immediately after the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters said Protestant churches will be barred from hosting small Bible classes, choir practices and lunch services from Friday at 6 p.m.

Only official services are allowed and churches also must use QR-code based entry logs to keep records of worshipers who participate in the services. The government explained that the toughened measures came as many of the new virus cases during the last two months spread through small religious meetings. The churches who violate the new regulation could face a fine of up to 3 million won ($2,494).

The protest petition said that it is difficult to understand the government’s decision to ban small group activities in Protestant churches when there is not any action taken at other facilities like clubs, karaokes, restaurants and cafes.

“If a church fails to comply with the health rules then there should be strong punishment, but regulating all churches based on few cases is unfair,” the petition post read.

Also, it claims that the recent decision is discriminative as it only regulates activities held at Protestant churches.

The public petition platform was created in 2011 and Cheong Wa Dae is mandated to answer petitions that collect more than 200,000 signatures within a month.

The United Christian Churches of Korea, one of the biggest associations of Protestant churches here, released an official statement and demanded the government to lift the ban.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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