The explanation of the Minister of Justice with regard to the restrictions imposed in relation to churches 30.03.2020
On Monday, 30 March, amendments to the Cabinet Order No. 103 adopted on 12 March 2020 “Regarding Declaration of the Emergency Situation” came into force, which reinforce the previously imposed restrictions by also prohibiting any private event, except for funerals held outdoors, provided that a two-metre distance between persons is maintained and other epidemiological safety measures are complied with.
With regard to the activities of religious organisations, the Minister for Justice, Jānis Bordāns, points out that the order stipulates that religious activities that are performed by gathering as prohibited. However, conducting a church service which is done by the clergy within the scope of their duties, without gathering their congregation physically, does not constitute a religious activity which is performed by gathering, therefore the aforementioned activities are allowed.
Minister of Justice, Jānis Bordāns, says: “This is the positive news in the emergency situation – church services are not prohibited, however, organised church attendance, being physically present, is not allowed in order to take care of public health safety. That does not mean that people have no possibility to pray. This time we will do it by staying at home, in our families! In this way, we will be united, and we will help doctors and nurses, border guards and policemen, all of us who are currently fighting against the spread of the Covid-19 virus."
In view of the fact that the premises of religious organisations (churches) are public places, religious organisations are directly subject to the rules of the Cabinet order with regard to distancing. At present, the order does not specify a specific number of persons who may be in public places (including places where religious activities are performed), however, everyone must observe a 2-metre distance. This applies both to the clergy who conduct church services, to individual church attenders, and also to other persons, for example, persons who are responsible for providing the streaming of church services online.
The Minister of Justice is calling for people to stay at home and, as far as possible, to use electronic means of communication for communicating with churches and for liturgical procedures, including viewing streamed church services online.
Minister of Justice, Jānis Bordāns, highly appreciates the active involvement of representatives of religious organisations in explaining the implemented security measures and encouraging believers to “stay at home”, abstaining from visiting public places as much as possible, including visiting churches, instead encouraging the use of remote forms of participation in the performing of religious activities. The Minister for Justice also calls on all churches to publicly inform all members of congregations about the new restrictions and the need to observe a physical distance of 2-metres, thereby ensuring maximum precaution.
Representatives of the Ministry of Justice will soon meet with the representatives of religious organizations in order to discuss the conducting of Easter celebrations in religious organizations.