On December 2, the Oregon Health Authority held a rules advisory committee meeting to discuss a planned permanent indoor mask mandate. Public reporting of this meeting named the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a participant in this advisory committee. Here’s what that means:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Oregon Conference representatives have actively sought to represent the interests of our 36,000 members in conversation with Oregon Health Authority. As a part of the faith community advisory, we have actively participated in giving feedback on proposed rules. We’ve asked questions. We’ve shared perspective. And we’ve sought to advocate for practical applications of common-sense safety measures in the face of the pandemic. The unfolding of guidelines, mandates, and rules over the past 18 months have raised red flags in the minds of many regarding government involvement in private and religious life. We continually work with our religious liberty representative to assess these issues and respond appropriately.
At the December 2 meeting, we had the opportunity to see an advance copy of the OHA’s proposed indefinite mask rule. In the course of the meeting, we provided feedback on behalf of the faith community. We hope our feedback makes a difference in the final OHA decision. Yet our participation in the process should not be construed as support for an indefinite mask mandate.
Since our founding, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has maintained a strong focus on the “health message.” Historically, this has included focus on both personal health (through healthy diet, exercise, NEWSTART, etc.) and community health (through hospitals, clinics, and health education). This focus has led us to participate wherever possible in the development of public health policy. It’s this focus that has guided our participation in providing feedback to Oregon Health Authority over the past two years. And it’s this focus that will continue to guide our participation with appropriate community partners in the future.