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United Beach Missions criticised for volunteer Covid vaccine policy

by Chantalle Edmunds

Concerns have been expressed by a Northern Ireland pastor after United Beach Missions (UBM) put in place a mandatory Covid vaccine policy for its volunteers this year.

The Christian charity operates around 85 beach mission teams who share the good news of Jesus at seaside resorts across the country and in Europe, running children and family activities along with evening gatherings.

As of 12th July 2021 an update on its website reads: "For English and Welsh missions, reluctantly we are requiring team members to be, at least, single vaccinated."

Rev Paul Burns from King's Christian Fellowship Church, in Belfast, who has suffered allergic reaction to vaccines in the past, told Premier he believes the policy, although not affecting Northern Ireland, discriminates against those who don't wish to take the vaccine or who have suffered an allergic response in the past.

"It was just shocking to actually see that they had decided that anyone who wasn't jabbed couldn't take part, when other Christian organisations throughout the UK are going ahead with camps, and they've gone ahead with people who are jabbed and not jabbed.

"They are depriving around ten to 15 percent of people who can't have a jab, for instance, myself, I have ethical reasons on the abortion issue of the baby, but I also cannot take the jab because I'm one of the 15 percent. When I was given a jab at nine months, I was on drugs until I was 16 because of the reaction."

Pastor Paul wrote a letter to United Beach Missions and expressed his belief that their decision penalised: "those who chose by conscience to not take the vaccines and those who medically cannot. Both of these are violations of Human Rights Legislation," he wrote.

"If a person is unvaccinated they can be given alternative accommodation which they would get finances for. I benefited from UBM, but I never thought you would ever adopt a stance such as this," he continued.

He also accused the charity of being swayed by medical, government and pharmaceutical companies and added. "Give unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's".

In response, UBM replied that they had "reluctantly taken this path having consulted the best Christian medical expertise available to UBM...and in light of the expected high number of cases likely to impact the UK in August."

"The issue is the risk to people in closely shared living accommodation, and the public, and we are seeking to protect and care for people by limiting transmission, isolation and people getting long COVID. 
"We are not saying people ought to get vaccinated, we accept that is their decision, but we are saying if people are vaccinated they may serve on a UBM team. We accept this is unlikely to be a perfect decision, but has been made in good conscience before the Lord after much prayer, consultation and discussion. The aim is to minimise risk as best we can to other team members and those we are seeking to reach."

Around 900 volunteers give a week or more to man around 90 weeks for United Beach Missions throughout the summer.

United Beach Missions told Premier there was no-one available for interview from the charity due to the busy time of year.

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