Romans 13, and Queensland's QR codes

QR codes are just becoming fully mandatory in the Sunshine State. Churches will have to use the QR check-in from July 9. But some churches are protesting the new rules. The Northerners are catching up to states such as New South Wales, where scanning a QR code outside any facility open to the public that attracts a crowd has been mandatory for months.

Victoria also made many businesses link their check-in apps to the government database in March and use the government QR check-in from late May, and all organisations from June 10.

But in those states, there’s been little dissension by churches, which generally have co-operated. Church networks such as the NSW Baptists for example, have provided guidance on contactless app system. Using QR codes has been happening long enough for church check-in notices to be looking a bit weatherbeaten. The vast majority of Christians have no objection.

That’s until Queensland. A conservative Christian website reports that “several church leaders throughout the state are refusing to impose such restrictions as a condition of entry into worship”.

“’We are not prepared to refuse entry to our congregation on a matter of conscience,’ one Queensland pastor said. ‘We have no command from God to force our people to sign in to a state system upon entry to corporate worship, and we have no desire as elders to police such a system.

“’We are not government lackeys,’ he said. ‘Granted, we are keeping a record on our church database, which can be requested by the government should there be an outbreak. But this system seems downright beastly.’

The objection is based on the possibility that a person might refuse to sign in using the app, or object to the church recording their presence and reporting it to the government database. But it is unclear whether that has occurred. Only two churches are cited in the original report.

Civil disobedience by Christians is a necessary moral act in some cases – with the Apostle Paul’s preaching in various cities as an obvious example – but the general admonition in the Bible comes from Romans 13: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established … Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

Is the requirement that a church be prepared to tell the health authorities who attends, something that Christians should take a stand on? It is not singling out churches for special treatment – something that Puritan pastor Richard Baxter put forward as a criteria for church leaders to decide whether to comply.

Eternity compared here the approaches to pandemic rules of Baxter (who supported accepting temporary restrictions on church gatherings, provided the regulations were fair) and contemporary American pastor John MacArthur (who rejects governments being able to restrict church activity).

As with the other states, Queensland will only store the information gained by the QR app for a limited time – 56 days in Queensland. Use of the information is restricted to health requirements, as well as “where the use or disclosure is authorised or required by law.”

An example of this occurred in WA where police accessed SafeWA data for a murder investigation. However, this has led to the WA Government promising a change in the law to prevent this sort of disclosure of QR data.