Legal Action Against Govt. For Outlawing, Criminalizing Public Worship has been Taken by Church Leaders in Scotland

A group of Scottish church leaders is pursuing legal action against the Scottish Minsters' decision to close churches and outlaw public worship during the current COVID lockdown.

EUROPE

GJC

2021-02-01 2 min read

A group of Scottish church leaders is pursuing legal action against the Scottish Minsters' decision to close churches and outlaw public worship during the current COVID lockdown.

Church officials notified the Scottish Ministers on Jan. 15, pleading for them to re-open churches. They explained that closing churches violates the European Convention of Human Rights law and the Scottish Constitution.

Additionally, the emotional and spiritual needs within the congregation and community cannot be addressed if these restrictions remain in effect.

The church leaders pointed out in their claim they clearly understand the significance of COVID-19 and the difficult decisions the Scottish Government has had to make in an effort to protect communities.

But the church officials say 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 Scottish Ministers' replied by denying the claim and asserted that the state can "regulate the secular activities of Churches…for the purposes of protecting public health" and that churches must "comply with secular law" and remain closed.

According to Christian Legal Centre, Scotland hasn't attempted to close churches since the 17th century during the persecution of the Presbyterian church.

Now church officials are asking for houses of worship in Scotland to remain open so people can attend services and events without fear of prosecution.

In the claim, the church leaders "hold that public corporate worship, involving the physical gathering together of Christians…are fundamental and indispensable aspects of their religion," and that "in the absence of the gathered people of God, there is effectively no church."

Scottish Ministers' say they are making decisions based on "science" to warrant several lockdown measures, including church closures.

Church leaders in Scotland are pressing ahead with legal action against the Scottish Government after public worship was banned during the current lockdown.

Unlike in England and Wales, where churches can still open, public worship has been suspended in Scotland since 8 January. 

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), the 27 church leaders argue that the suspension of public worship is "unlawful" and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They are seeking a judicial review after the Scottish Government ignored a pre-action letter from the church leaders in which they said the restrictions had "serious implications for freedom of religion" and were unnecessarily preventing them from meeting the material, emotional and spiritual needs of their communities.