An appeal has been filed in a British Columbia Supreme Court decision that upheld public health orders banning indoor religious services in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An appeal has been filed in a British Columbia Supreme Court decision that upheld public health orders banning indoor religious services in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Fraser Valley churches to appeal court decision that upheld COVID-19 restrictions

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announced Thursday it is asking for a higher court to review the decision

An appeal has been filed in a British Columbia Supreme Court decision that upheld public health orders banning indoor religious services in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the province.

A statement from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represents a group including three Fraser Valley churches, announced Thursday that it was asking for a higher court to review the decision.

Paul Jaffe, a lawyer with the advocacy group, argued during hearings last month that the orders by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry unjustifiably infringed on his clients’ right to freedom of religion.

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson found the orders were justified and the question before the court wasn’t whether Henry struck the right balance on the infringement, but whether she acted reasonably given the information available to her.

No one from the Attorney General’s Ministry was immediately available for comment on the notice of appeal.

Justice Centre lawyer Marty Moore says in a statement the judge decided to “set aside the constitutional scrutiny” that applies to such laws “in favour of extreme judicial deference to an unelected bureaucrat.”

“A declared public health crisis does not permit courts to neglect their constitutional obligation to ensure that government actions respect the charter rights of citizens,” he says.

The notice of appeal dated March 31 seeks an order quashing Hinkson’s judgment and granting the original relief sought by the petitioners, along with costs.

Henry made changes to her rules for houses of worship last week that would have allowed for services of up to 50 people in indoor settings, but reversed that decision this week as COVID-19 cases reached a new peak.

Her orders now allow outdoor services under certain rules and restrictions.

Jaffe has said the petitioners, which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack, had been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remained open.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Chilliwack Search and Rescue truck heads down Vedder Road towards Cultus Lake to assist a dirtbiker with a broken leg. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Emergency crews, SAR busy with three separate outdoor recreation incidents in Chilliwack area

Calls in 1 afternoon include ATV collision, parachuter who fell from tree, dirtbiker with broken leg

Philomusica Chorus and Ensemble released ‘All Good Gifts’ on YouTube on April 3, 2021. (YouTube)
Chilliwack chorus shares latest song with ‘same love, enthusiasm’ as pre-pandemic music

Philomusica Chorus and Ensemble recently released its version of ‘All Good Gifts’ on YouTube

Crews are on scene of a three-vehicle collision at Vedder and Knight roads in Chilliwack on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
Three-vehicle collision in Chilliwack causes traffic backlog at busy intersection

Collision happened at intersection of Vedder and Knight

Chilliwack’s historic Royal Hotel is offering COVID-style wedding packages for two weeks in June. (Facebook/ Royal Hotel Chilliwack)
Chilliwack hotel offers pop-up, COVID-style weddings for 2 weeks this June

‘Weddings can still happen, albeit in a different fashion,’ says Laura Reid of Royal Hotel

Kay Campbell (left) and Linda Brawn with Chilliwack Senior Peer Counsellors said the organization is in need of more volunteers to chat with seniors. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Volunteers like ‘lifeline’ for lonely seniors, says Chilliwack Senior Peer Counsellors

National Volunteer Week: People encouraged to volunteer time in form of weekly phone chats with elderly

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read