Church leaders say no to vaccine passports

19 April 2021

Over 1,300 church leaders from a range of background and denominations across the UK have now signed an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him not to introduce Covid vaccine passports.

‘Unethical form of coercion’

In the letter, the church leaders warn the Prime Minister that the introduction of so called ‘Covid status certificates’ “would constitute an unethical form of coercion and violation of the principle of informed consent.” The letter continues:

“People may have various reasons for being unable or unwilling to receive vaccines currently available, including, for some Christians, serious issues of conscience related to the ethics of vaccine manufacture or testing. We risk creating a two-tier society, a medical apartheid in which an underclass of people who decline vaccination are excluded from significant areas of public life.”

Previously the Equality and Human Rights Commission has also said that introducing certificates to prove who has been vaccinated could create a two-tier society whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights.”

The Church must be open to all

The church leaders also stated that were the policy to be introduced, they would defy the rules to allow people into churches. The letter states:

“As Christian leaders we wish to state that we envisage no circumstances in which we could close our doors to those who do not have a vaccine passport, negative test certificate, or any other “proof of health”. For the Church of Jesus Christ to shut out those deemed by the state to be social undesirables would be anathema to us and a denial of the truth of the Gospel. … To deny people entry to hear this life-giving message and to receive this life-giving ministry would be a fundamental betrayal of Christ and the Gospel.”

The signatories point the Prime Minister to the recent Judicial Review in Scotland, which overturned the Scottish government’s ban on gathered public worship. They argue that this,

“demonstrates that such disproportionate prevention of the right to worship is a clear infringement under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights. We cannot see how any attempt to prevent people gathering for worship on the basis of either testing or non-vaccination would not similarly be ruled to be a breach.”

The letter is being led by Rev. Dr William Philip, of the Tron Church in Glasgow, who also led the successful judicial review in Scotland.

Church of England opposes vaccine passports

The Church of England also made its position clear, with a spokesperson warning against the introduction of vaccine passports:

“The Church has adopted a clear policy of encouraging people to be vaccinated, but, other than in very exceptional circumstances, this does not justify limiting access to church services or organisations on the basis of vaccine passports.

“Such an approach would run contrary to the principle of the Church being a home and a refuge for all.”

‘We must welcome others as Jesus welcomed us’

Rev. Dr Matthew Roberts, one of the signatories of the letter, wrote for Premier Christianity, explaining why he is backing the letter:

“Christians have always understood that we must welcome others just as Jesus welcomed us. That includes into our homes, but primarily into the Church. No one should be excluded from coming to meet with the living Lord Jesus, present in the gathering of his people.”

“The issue is about making health a condition of coming and hearing the good news of Jesus Christ or gathering to worship Him. To exclude someone because they have not received a certain medical treatment, or because they cannot prove that they are not carrying a certain disease, is the very opposite of Christ’s unconditional call. It would imply that Christ requires a standard before he will receive sinners; that he came not to call the sick, but the healthy. We rightly shudder to hear of churches refusing entry on the basis of race or social status in the past; we should shudder just as much at the thought of churches refusing entry on the basis of, not even disease, but the mere possibility of carrying it.”

Government to review policy

Speaking to the Telegraph, a government spokesperson said, “We are considering a range of evidence around Covid-status certification and whether it may have a role in opening up higher risk settings safely. The review is ongoing and no decisions have been taken.”

Should churches accept vaccine passports?

In last week’s episode of Round the Table, Communications Manager Paul Huxley, the Christian Legal Centre’s Roger Kiska, and our chief executive Andrea Williams discussed the possible implications of compelling churches to adopt vaccine passports.

Andrea commented: “Jesus didn’t turn the lepers away; he was among the people, and among the most vulnerable.

“Who would have thought that a country could be in such fear? But these changes have been so incremental into how we ‘do church’. This shows the state of Western culture, when we have become this kowtowed and this fearful. This is in large part because we have forgotten God. This is all about ‘saving us for now’ – but for what? Where is the hope?”

You can watch the full episode below:

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