The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom says some foreign governments are riding roughshod over religious minorities in their response to the coronavirus.
The bipartisan commission cites South Korea’s prosecution of a leader of the Schincheonji Church of Jesus for an outbreak of COVID-19 as an example of encroachments on religious practices amid the global pandemic.
“South Korea provides a vivid example of how public health emergencies can increase the risk to marginalized religious groups,” three commission analysts said Monday in a fact sheet.
South Korean officials earlier this month asked for an investigation with potential homicide charges for 80-year-old church leader Lee Man-hee and others for initially ignoring health protocols. Mr. Man-hee has apologized for his church’s role in spreading the virus.
The commission’s fact sheet also notes reports that China has forced imprisoned Uighur Muslims to work in factories that have lost workers due to the coronavirus.
In addition, the fact sheet points out the closure of Roman Catholic and Jewish faith gatherings in Italy and Saudi Araba’s ban on pilgrims to Mecca and Medina over fears of spreading the disease.
“It is important for governments to account for religious freedom concerns in their responses to COVID-19, for reasons of both legality and policy effectiveness,” the fact sheet states. “From a legal perspective, international law requires governments to preserve individual human rights, including religious freedom, when taking measures to protect public health even in times of crisis.”