Prominent UK churches have demanded that the government urgently revise lockdown laws that discriminate against churches.
The letter of demand sent to the government argues that the restrictions against churches are unlawful and unnecessary, and discriminate against them in the official ‘exit-strategy’.
The church leaders warn that they will pursue legal action if the government fails to prioritise religious freedom.
The letter states that “churches have been given the most unfavourable treatment possible.”
“Churches have been placed in the bottom category of the most dangerous and least important services, subjected to severest restrictions for the longest period of time.
“Those restrictions are imposed by means of formal legislation with a criminal sanction; unlike many other organisations and individuals, churches are not trusted to follow advice.”
The letter argues that the government’s forced closure of all churches is disproportionate, interfering with Article 9 of the European Declaration of Human Rights (freedom of belief and religion).
According to the eleven high profile church leaders, the government should recognise the importance of churches and church ministries to society and allow churches to open up earlier than at the very last stage of the easing of restrictions.
Pastor Ade Omooba MBE, one of the claimants in the letter, said: “It cannot be right that at present it is lawful to go to a bike shop, B&Q, visit a chiropractor or dry cleaner, and not be allowed to receive Holy Communion or engage in silent prayer in a church. Churches have traditionally been at the centre of the communities, able to offer counsel, prayer and comfort at times of national crisis. They are at the heart of our communities helping to combat mental health problems, addictions, risk of suicide, domestic violence, poverty and risk.
“Churches deliver an essential service to the community. The government should not be putting churches as the lowest priority services for re-opening from the lockdown. We look forward to the response from the government to this letter and hope that we can engage with the government to see church ministry prioritised as we start to exit the lockdown.”
The UK letter signatories, many of whom lead churches in some of the most deprived communities in the UK, include:
- Rev Ade Omooba MBE and Dr David Muir, Co-Chairs of the National Church Leaders Forum, A Black Christian Voice;
- David Hathaway, President, Eurovision Mission to Europe;
- Revd Dr Brad Norman, Salvation For The Nations Intl. Churches
- Chris Demetriou, Senior Pastor, Cornerstone
- Bishop Lovel Bent, Presiding Bishop, Connections Trust
- Pastor Sunday Okenwa, Regional Overseer, Deeper Christian Life Ministry
- Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, President, Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue
- Canon Yaqub Masih MBE, Secretary General, UK Asian Christians; Secretary General &
Founder, New Horizons
- Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, Senior Pastor, Kingsway International Christian Centre
- Bishop Alfred Williams, Presiding Bishop, Christ Faith Tabernacle International Churches
- Dennis Greenidge, Senior Pastor, Worldwide Mission Fellowship.
In the USA, the Alliance Defending Freedom has launched actions in a number of states against measures targeting churches.
“Singling out churches for special punishment while allowing others to have greater freedom isn’t just illogical, it’s clearly unconstitutional,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker.