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Scots priest joins legal action against Scottish Government over church closures

A Scots priest has joined legal action launched by other Christian leaders against the Scottish Government.

They are fighting the lockdown regulations on churches imposed by the government.

Canon Tom White, of St Alphonsus RC Church in the Calton area of Glasgow, issued a pre-action letter to the Government in February demanding it lifts lockdown restrictions forcing places of worship to close.

READ MORE: Ban on church services in Scottish lockdown ‘unfair’, Catholic Bishops claim

Meanwhile, a separate group of other religious leaders launched legal proceedings in January to force the Scottish Government to change tack.

Canon White has now joined the action by the other religious leaders, including representatives from the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), the Free Church of Scotland, and a number of independent churches.

They state the closures are unlawful as they breach human rights law and the Scottish constitution.

The case will be heard at a two-day remote hearing on March 11-12.

Churches are currently closed and are only permitted to conduct weddings or funerals – with the number of attendees strictly limited – and to broadcast services online.

In England, communal worship is allowed subject to restrictions on attendance.

The Scottish Government currently plans to allow churches to open from April 5 with attendance limits – though First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated they will be able to open earlier for Easter.

READ MORE: Scots priest takes legal action against ministers to stop UK divide on lockdown right to worship

Canon White, who is being supported by legal advocacy organisation ADF International, said: “We’ve seen the Government allow bicycle shops and dry cleaners to open throughout the current lockdown, whilst my grieving community has had no access to their church or the sacraments.

“I think we can all agree at this time that it’s very, very important that we keep each other safe, and that we keep our local communities safe, but as Christians we acknowledge that we not only have physical needs, but spiritual needs.

“Freedom of religion is a foundational human right. This right should be limited only to the extent that is necessary and proportionate.

“The Scottish Government’s plan to reopen church doors from April is welcome progress, but it does not rectify the unjust blanket ban on public worship that is still in force and has been in place for months – particularly at a time of suffering.”

HeraldScotland:

Ryan Christopher, director of ADF International in the UK, said: “There is no clear reason why the Scottish Government could not find solutions which protect both the vulnerable and those who understand their communal worship to be as essential as food and water.”

The Church of Scotland has previously said it does not support the legal action.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As the First Minister has set out in Parliament, we know how important it is to people that places of worship reopen as soon as is possible – and the current restrictions will not remain in place a day longer than necessary to protect public health and stem transmission of the virus.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing litigation.”



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