Rev Desmond Austin

The Trinidad and Tobago Council of Evangelical Churches (TTCEC) says they do not agree with mandatory vaccinations for churches or that churches be made Safe Zones.

The TTCEC, led by Reverend Desmond Austin, made its position known in a media release yesterday, following a meeting held in November.

It said the body met with key stakeholders to discuss the impact of COVID-19, vaccinations and the church.

In September, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh revealed the majority of people who have so far refused to become vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus are from the Christian faith.

He said then, “When we talk to people and do our surveys, the bulk of people who seem to be vaccine-hesitant are of the Christian faith.”

Following this, there had been concerns that some churches were dissuading their members from taking a COVID-19 vaccine.

But yesterday, the council said after careful consideration by all parties, “We agreed that we must all respect personal choices and free will, and that everyone has the freedom to choose with reference being made to Romans Ch 14: 1-5 ‘Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things’.”

The council members also agreed that respect for those in authority should not limit the churches’ voice on issues relevant to the health and wellbeing of the population, as well as other issues of national interest. In addition, the TTCEC also said, “Even though we will have disagreements in the body, we must have tolerance. These disagreements should not change how we interact and relate to each other.”

The Evangelical Council also called for education regarding COVID-19, saying church members should make informed decisions.

It also said advised members to build up their immune systems.

“We should build our immune system to help build natural immunity and maintain overall good health.”

Regarding mandatory vaccination, the Council of Evangelical Churches said it should not be forced on the church and quoted 1 Corinthians 6:12, which says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

It said, “We agreed that it was a personal choice and everyone was free to choose to either be vaccinated or not, with no prejudice against them. However, we unanimously stood against the idea of mandatory vaccinations for the entire population. It was agreed that mandatory vaccinations should not be forced on the church.”

The council also said, “We agreed that the accessibility of other forms of treatment should be a deterrent for having a vaccine mandate and they should be considered as well.”

The council is also speaking out against including churches in the Safe Zone initiative.

It believes that “this could affect the separation of church and the state. Rather, we are encouraging churches to practice the necessary public health policies to help with the general safety and protection of congregants from contracting COVID-19.”

However, the council emphasised that it is not opposed to vaccines.

“All immunity is natural and can be vaccine-induced or infection-induced. To this end, we are not against the use of vaccines,” the council pointed out.