As new daily coronavirus cases have surpassed 4,000 over the weekend, MPs criticise church services with over 600 people attending. 

On Sunday, church services in the Restored Reformed Congregation in Staphorst, a city in eastern Netherlands, held three separate services welcoming up to 600 visitors. The region is known as the country’s ‘bible belt’,  with a large conservative Christian population. Officially, they did not break any rules, though the church has received widespread criticism for setting a poor example. 

Religious gatherings have been exempt from the government’s limitation on groups over 30 people, provided visitors have a reservation and health check upon entry. Churchgoers have not been required to wear a mask and singing can take place as usual.

According to a church secretary, “We have good ventilation here and everyone is really at a good distance,” reports the local newspaper, De Senator. “We see to it that everyone disinfects their hands upon arrival and we guide people to their places.” 

Gerrit Jan Kok, mayor of Staphorst, sees no reason to intervene as he believes that “everything at churches goes well and people follow the rules.” He says, “It is not without reason that we have the separation between church and state.”

Members of Parliament disapprove

However, MPs have not been pleased with the large church services. SP party chairman Marijnissen says it’s “totally impossible to explain,” reports NOS. “Theaters and catering industry must adhere to the rule of a maximum of 30 people per room. This is irresponsible, especially towards the employees in the care sector.” 

Lodewijk Asscher of the PvdA agrees that exceptions regarding group size should not be made for religious organisations. “It is really irresponsible that hundreds of people in Staphorst come together in a church, while other Dutch people are asked not to stand by the line and their children’s football match.”

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Feature Image: G. Lanting/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0 

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