Six months jail for holding large church service; new legislation aims to thwart congregations

EPL Properties Ltd

If Reverend Winston Cuffie or other religious leader opts to hold another service with more than 10 participants, they will be running the risk of a TT$50,000 fine and six months imprisonment.

The government today legislated to sanction religious gatherings, betting houses and theatres, as it revoked its previous Public Health Ordinance created ‘for the purposes of controlling and preventing the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus’.

Photo: Church services like this one are outlawed for the next month, as the Trinidad and Tobago government tries to stall the infection rate of Covid-19.

The legislation, which was proclaimed by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, states ‘it shall be an offence, during the period specified in regulation 5(b), for any person’:

  • to conduct the business of a bar, whether or not the person is a licensed person under the Liquor Licences Act;
  • to operate a club as defined in section 2 of the Registration of Clubs act;
  • to operate a theatre licensed under the Cinematograph Act;
  • to operate a common gaming house or betting office licensed under the Gambling and Betting Act;
  • to conduct religious or ecclesiastical services or any other religious gatherings where the number of persons participating therein exceeds ten;
  • to provide the amenity of seated dining at a restaurant to any customer.

Violation of the aforementioned regulations carries the penalty, on summary conviction, to a fine of TT$50,000 and imprisonment for six months.

The Public Health Ordinance also stated that all air and sea ports shall remain closed except for cargo, travel between Trinidad and Tobago and the transportation of passengers permitted by the Minister of National Security.

Photo: Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh (left) and National Security Minister Stuart Young discuss the novel coronavirus.

The aforementioned regulations, according to 5(b), shall come into force on 22 March 2020 and expire on 30 April 2020. The one-month ban on sizeable church services became necessary after some religious groups refused to abide by the government’s request to avoid congregations.

Last week, Cuffie advised followers not to be ‘dominated by fear’ and invited them to a Miracle Ministries service in Chase Village, Chaguanas—dedicated to ‘the impartation and activation of the gifts of healing’.

Cuffie, in an advertisement, told followers that ‘the best and safest place to be now is in the house of the Lord’ and ‘God’s house is not a place where we fear we will get sick’.

“God’s house is not the same as a bar, entertainment centre or so,” stated the advertisement from Miracle Ministries. “The healing, miracle, Holy Ghost power dwells in His house.”

From today, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) is instructed to treat the ‘House of the Lord’ exactly as they would a bar or entertainment centre once it has more than 10 worshippers.

Photo: A Miracle Ministries advertisement for a service on Friday 20 March 2020.
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One comment

  1. Romans 13:1-2
    Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resist authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they receive condemnation upon themselves.

    My take on this situation is that every religious leader who knows the word, should know this scripture; their choice to go against it tells me that either they don’t understand its meaning, or understand but chooses to disobey. Most likely they are looking at the money they would be loosing, rather than the lives of their members. Such a shame.

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