Kirk opposes legal action over Scottish church closures

The Moderator and other senior figures in the Church of Scotland have issued a joint statement making clear their opposition to legal action against the Scottish Government over the latest closure of churches during the coronavirus pandemic.

A group of Christian dissenters in Scotland have commenced legal proceedings against the government after it ordered the closure of places of worship as part of stricter lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The figures come from a range of denominations, including the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), the Free Church of Scotland, a number of independent churches, as well as two elders from Church of Scotland congregations in Glasgow and Inverclyde.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In a nine-page letter, they argue the temporary closure of churches falls foul of human rights legislation, and state that unless the government complies with their request to reverse the regulations, they intend to challenge their legality by petitioning for judicial review.

However, the Church of Scotland said that it does not back any such moves and vowed to work alongside the government to ensure that churches can be reopened safely as soon as possible.

In a joint statement, the Right Rev Dr Martin Fair, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, as well as the Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, convener of the Kirk’s assembly trustees, and the Rev Dr George Whyte, the Kirk’s principal clerk, said: “The Church of Scotland does not support the legal action over temporary building closures launched against the Scottish Government. Individuals who have signed a statement supporting this course of action are speaking for themselves.

Read More
120 people attended church or place of worship with Covid in Scotland

“We do not think legal action is the right course to take when the country is under threat from Covid-19 and we fully accept that the latest pandemic restrictions mean that we have to close churches again for the time being.

People sit at marked places to keep distance as they take part in a small church service. Picture: Ian Fassbender/AFP via Getty ImagesPeople sit at marked places to keep distance as they take part in a small church service. Picture: Ian Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
People sit at marked places to keep distance as they take part in a small church service. Picture: Ian Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

“The vast majority of our members understand and support these temporary restrictions.”

They added: “We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that reopening churches will happen as soon as it can be done safely.

"Along with other faith community leaders, we encourage people to take measures that will ensure their safety and the safety of others and be vaccinated when the opportunity arises.”

The Free Church of Scotland has also outlined its support for the restrictions, noting the “church has a responsibility to support the government in its efforts” during a public health crisis.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Among those who signed the pre-action letter calling for an end to the church closures was the Rev William Philip, leader of the Tron church in Glasgow city centre.

He 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."

Under the current restrictions, places of worship are only permitted to conduct weddings or funerals, with attendees strictly limited, and services broadcast online.

Communal worship can continue south of the border subject to restrictions on attendance.

A message from the editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.