Church leaders launch legal proceedings over lockdown

Lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of coronavirus have forced places of worship to shut.

Religious leaders in Scotland have started legal proceedings against the Scottish Government over the closure of churches.

Lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of coronavirus have forced places of worship to shut.

Some representatives from the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) and a number of independent churches have now launched a claim for judicial review.

Rev William Philip, leader of the Tron church in Glasgow city centre, said: “We are able to do some things remotely via broadcasting but many – especially the poorest, the oldest and those most vulnerable – have no access to this.

“They are excluded completely from the possibility of Christian worship and the comfort and encouragement in life and death only this can give.

“Due to the severe restrictions upon gatherings and significant distress this has caused, we have faced no alternative but to pursue legal action.”

As part of the latest lockdown rules, places of worship are only permitted to conduct weddings or funerals – with the number of attendees strictly limited – and to broadcast services online.

Communal worship can continue south of the border subject to restrictions on attendance.

A pre-action letter was sent threatening legal action on January 15, giving ministers until 5pm on January 21 to respond.

Lawyers for the faith representatives will now argue the regulations are in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Scottish Constitution.

However, not every Kirk is in agreement with the move.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “We do not think threatening legal action is the right course to take when the country is under threat from Covid-19.

“We fully accept that the latest pandemic restrictions mean that we have to close churches again for the time being.

“The vast majority of our members understand and support these temporary restrictions.

“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that reopening churches will happen as soon as it can be done safely.

“We, along with other faith community leaders, encourage people to take measures that will ensure their safety and the safety of others and be vaccinated when the opportunity arises.

“We look forward to the day we can be together again in church.

“In the meantime, we are encouraged by the many church congregations across Scotland who are offering essential support – both spiritual and practical – to their local communities.”

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