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‘Stand up and say no’: Churches fight government over vaccine mandate

Health Minister Brad Hazzard is standing firm behind plans to require churchgoers to show proof of vaccination when NSW reopens, despite religious leaders pushing for an exemption on the grounds no one should be turned away from church.

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Kanishka Raffel and other faith leaders are lobbying Mr Hazzard directly on the issue, and some ministers have publicly contemplated civil disobedience if the government keeps the requirement.

“Churches have a responsibility to minister to all, regardless of immunisation status, so we will be discussing with government how we can fulfil that ministry commitment in future stages of the recovery,” Archbishop Raffel told The Sun-Herald. “We want everybody to be safe at church, but we also want to make sure we minister to everybody.”

Sydney archbishops have challenged Health Minister Brad Hazzard over the government’s plans to make vaccination a requirement to go to church.

Sydney archbishops have challenged Health Minister Brad Hazzard over the government’s plans to make vaccination a requirement to go to church.Credit:Composite

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said he and other religious leaders had told the government worship was “an essential service, not mere recreation” for many people.

“We explained that all our faiths are inclined to allow all comers to worship, that many pastors and faithful would be uneasy with restricting worship to the fully vaccinated, and that doing so could prove very divisive,” he said.

The road map announced last week allows places of worship to reopen to vaccinated people with capacity limited to one person per four square metre rule, once 70 per cent of NSW adults are fully vaccinated, estimated to be around the middle of October. Singing will not be allowed.

The government has not clarified what will happen at 80 per cent double dose vaccination.

Last week before the road map was announced, Phil Colgan, minister at St George North Anglican Church, told The Pastor’s Heart podcast he could not imagine a scenario in which he would turn away parishioners who weren’t vaccinated.

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