• The Scottish Episcopal Church has distanced itself from church leaders who have threatened legal action if the Scottish Government does not reverse its decision to close places of worship during the current phase of the Covid pandemic.
The Primus, Bishop Mark Strange, said: “Having worked closely with the Scottish Government during the pandemic, alongside the Church of Scotland and many other denominations, in a bid to protect the vulnerable by stemming the spread of the virus, I would like to state that we have no part in the move to take legal action against the Government.”
•A group of 500 church leaders – 200 from Scotland and 300 from elsewhere in the UK – have signed a letter to the First Minister calling for her to lift the ban on communal worship. The Scottish Government has been given until 5 pm on Thursday to respond, and the group has said it will seek judicial review if the closure of churches is not dropped from lockdown restrictions.
The churches seeking action say: “The closure of churches in Scotland is unprecedented, with no attempt to close them since the Stuart kings made it a capital offence to meet for worship and listen to preaching other than that of the established church, in the 17th century.”
They emphasise that they ‘fully understand the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and they appreciate that the Scottish Government is required to make difficult decisions as it seeks to take steps to decrease the spread of the virus.’
However, the leaders say that they believe the Scottish Ministers’ have ‘failed to appreciate that the closure of places of worship is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.’
The letter contends that the regulations that came into force on 8 January 2021 are in violation of Article 9, read with Article 11, of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The letter identifies that with suitable restrictions in place, public transport, essential shops, professional sport, and the court system continue to function, yet places of worship are closed.
• Scotland’s Roman Catholic bishops have also expressed concern at the Scottish Government’s decision to close churches, when “no evidence has been forthcoming to justify the inclusion of places of worship as sources of infection”. The bishops suggest the move is “arbitrary and unfair” and in stark contrast to the decision by the UK Government to recognise “the essential contribution of public worship to the spiritual welfare of all citizens”.
• Full information about the call for re-opening at Christian Concern
• Catholic Bishops question Scottish Government’s closure of places of worship
• Bishop Mark Strange’s statement