Conservative Protestant sector opposes government’s ban on face-to-face worship

SEOUL, Some conservative factions in the South Korean Protestant community on Thursday strongly opposed the government’s ban on face-to-face worship in churches in the greater Seoul area amid a recent resurgence in coronavirus cases.
On Saturday, the government strengthened social distancing guidelines as more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases have been reported over the past week, most of which are community infections linked to church gatherings. Under the guidelines, churches in Seoul and its surrounding areas are not allowed to have in-person worship services, as well as small activities and events like choir sessions or Bible studies.
Those who violate the distancing guidelines will face up to 3 million won (US$2,500) in fines.
Most Protestant churches have been preparing to hold online chapels this Sunday instead of offline ones for the first time in three months. They suspended all offline services and meetings for nearly three months in the midst of the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic this spring.
On the other hand, the Communion of Churches in Korea, an alliance of 39 conservative Protestant churches and 10 associations, has sent a text message to its members, saying that it will not accept the government’s sanctions.
It asked them to follow the anti-virus rules but urged them to keep holding on-site services, adding that the communion will take full liability for possible violations.
“We cannot tolerate the government’s ban on worship services,” said an official from the communion. “But we will comply with quarantine rules. It’ll be OK if we wear masks.”
Some right-wing civic groups, including People’s Action for Freedom and Human Rights, at the same time, also raised their voice against the government’s order to prohibit religious services in person.
They claimed that the government is trying to shift the responsibility for failing to control the spread of the virus onto the Protestant community.
“Most churches have well complied with COVID-19 preventive rules, but the government represses them,” they said in a press conference held in front of the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae in downtown Seoul. “We demand the government offer an apology and lift the ban on face-to-face worship.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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