Legal challenge to church lockdown will continue in January

15 December 2020

After 122 church leaders from England and Wales launched legal action against the government over its decision to close churches during recent lockdowns, we are now expecting an oral hearing on 25 January 2021 in Cardiff, which will determine whether the case will proceed to judicial review.

Although we’re pleased that the government has stopped criminalising gathered worship services in all three tiers in England after the recent lockdown, safe public worship services should never have been banned.

There are suggestions that Wales will go into alert level four (ie. lockdown) restrictions from 28 December. Although the government has committed to allowing churches to remain open, we are saddened that the government and police saw fit to interfere with church services in the previous firebreak.

This is not an issue that is going to go away; there is a huge principle at stake and justice delayed is justice denied. The longer this goes on, the more ‘normal’ the idea of closing churches will become.

Despite the introduction of a vaccine, there is no guarantee that the freedom to worship will not be curtailed at a moment’s notice in future months. Governments should only interfere with church independence – which is guaranteed in our constitution and in human rights legislation – as a matter of last resort.

Churches have taken extensive measures to prevent the virus spreading through their meetings. The question of whether gathered worship services can be banned on scant or non-existent evidence of a public health risk – particularly when other, significantly more dangerous activities are permitted – is not an academic irrelevance.

The government did not ban worship services in England because they were more dangerous than other activities, but because it valued them less.

Gathered worship is at the centre of many Christians’ lives and was always one of the safest and most beneficial activities anyone could have participated in. It is disappointing that the government failed to listen to faith leaders and banned worship services in the first place.

Church is not a club for the holy – it is a refuge for imperfect, vulnerable people. We hope and trust that churches across the nation use their freedoms through Advent and Christmas to share the light of Christ with their neighbours and demonstrate God’s love through generous acts of service.

We ask for your prayers and support over the coming weeks on this issue and ask that you give thanks for the courageous church leaders who are continuing to take this stand.

Find out more about Church lockdown
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