Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1) has shut down claims made by some local pasters that the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) administration, at some time, limited church gatherings to one hour.
"Misinformation is so crucial... I was told that this Sunday a few pastors preach on me saying that we had the churches meeting for an hour," Hon Fahie told the House of Assembly during the debates of the Medical (Amendment) Act, 2019 on July 2, 2020.
"That was never true, and I had to hear sermons were preached on me... that was not true, nobody in this government limited the churches from meeting," he said.
The Premier said that as part of the sermons, some pastors even preached a condemnation message over his life.
Prayers protected VI from COVID-19 - Premier Fahie
"Could you even imagine that? We would never stop the churches from doing what they have to do because it is through them praying is why we don't have more people sick with the COVID-19," the Premier noted.
Hon Fahie admitted that he is not much in the street as he would like, due to the complexities of the job; however, he noted that his eyes are on several things at once.
He said while the local pastors will be forgiven, "I'm not going to allow persons to take my meekness for weakness, and while the Lord said touch not his anointed, I'm not going to let people use their pulpit to put me in hell!"
Guidelines for religious organisations
Meanwhile, on July 1, 2020, Premier Fahie said Cabinet endorsed the COVID-19 guidance for Churches and other Faith-based organisations, subject to review on a weekly basis.
“There seemed to have been misconceptions following a stakeholder consultation meeting as the Ministry of Health and religious leaders were working together to develop the guidelines for Cabinet’s consideration. There seemed to have been some discussions in those stakeholder meetings regarding the length of time that religious institutions would meet for services,” he pointed out.
He said he wished to place on record that for the first time the Cabinet was able to see and review the guidance document that will support the safe conduct of religious proceedings and services in this ‘New Regular’ of living with COVID-19.
“I wish to assure the public that the Government of the Virgin Islands will never try to put constraints on the work of the Lord, but will ensure that all is being done by all establishments in the Territory to keep people safe and healthy. The Ministry of Health will make the guidelines available to the churches and other faith-based organisations in short order,” he stated.
As it is mass gatherings for faith-based organisations, graduations, weddings and funerals require one person per 64 square feet, up to a maximum of 100 people.
No mention of a time limit was made.