Calling it persecution by public policy, hundreds of Oregon Christians protest COVID-19 restrictions

Father Theodore Lange
Father Theodore Lange, chaplain of the Oregon Knights of Columbus, protests against the state's coronavirus limits on church attendance outside the Oregon Capitol on Nov. 28, 2020. |

Calling it persecution by public policy, hundreds of mostly Catholic Christians protested against Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions limiting church attendance on Saturday.

“We don’t do this for our own sake. We do this in solidarity with the millions of Christians who have lost their lives for Christ,” declared Father Theodore Lange, chaplain of the Oregon Knights of Columbus which organized the protest, according to the Catholic Sentinel. “We do this for future generations. We do this because we love God, we love the United States and we love Oregon.”

More than 400 protestors, including hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics, decried Gov. Kate Brown’s Nov. 25 decision to limit church attendance to 25% of capacity or 100 people, whichever is less, in response to the novel coronavirus. Brown had initially announced a 25-person limit in churches statewide but she increased that cap after protests from Archbishop Alexander Sample and other leaders, the publication said.

“We are here today to speak in one voice: Stop the religious repression,” Young Tran, a refugee from Vietnam and a member of Our Lady of La Vang Parish in Happy Valley said. “It happened in our former country, a communist and a socialist country, and it’s starting to happen here now.”

Tran and his group sang about faith and freedom to much applause, but Father Ansgar Pham, pastor of Our Lady of La Vang, said he never expected to suffer religious persecution in America.

“We never thought that when we escaped from Vietnam that we would be persecuted here in the United States,” he told the Catholic Sentinel. “That is really painful.”

The restrictions on churches are expected to continue at least through December, and possibly until a majority of the population is vaccinated, the Statesman Journal said.

As of Monday, Oregon began categorizing counties by risk level: Extreme Risk, High Risk and Lower Risk, KOIN 6 reported.

Some 21 counties — including Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties — were listed as Extreme Risk and are now limited to gatherings of only six people at home. 

Last Wednesday, State Health Officer and epidemiologist, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, said they considered factors like test positivity rates and total case numbers in determining the risk level assigned to counties and said the plan will help the state better manage the virus through the winter.

“We believe that by implementing this framework, it will enable us to better manage the impacts of COVID-19 through the winter,” he said.

Clackamas County Public Health Director Philip Mason described the restrictions, which will also impact local businesses and their employees, as “really a call to action.”

“Your individual choices and behaviors and your plan to approach this holiday season really does have an impact on our essential healthcare workers,” he said. “We know COVID fatigue is very real, but it’s still here and we need to do everything we possibly can to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”

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