RELIGION: KIRK KEEPS ITS DISTANCE OVER LEGAL CHALLENGE

Church leaders in Scotland have launched proceedings against the government.
Some church leaders in Scotland have launched proceedings against the government.

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

The Catholic Church also declined to join in the legal action. Their spokesperson said: “The Catholic Church remains perplexed by the decision to close places of worship entirely, given that the stringent measures taken since last March to ensure public safety in our churches have been effective. Without scientific evidence to justify these restrictions they appear to be arbitrary and unfair, especially since the essential contribution of public worship to the spiritual welfare of all citizens during this crisis has been endorsed by the decision not to close places of worship in England.

“Public worship is a human right and is a duty humanity owes to God. Although the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland is not at present considering a legal challenge to the restrictions, they continue to urge the Scottish Government, to reconsider them at the earliest possible opportunity.”

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.

The 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 in England subject to restrictions on attendance.

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 church is in agreement with the move.

The Church of Scotland’s issued this statement earlier today: ““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.”

  • Our buildings may be temporarily closed but the Church is open and ministers and worship leaders continue to share the Good News of Jesus Christ online with aplomb and great gusto in addition to supporting people in need in practical ways.

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