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Over 120 church leaders blast UK’s ‘unlawful’ closure of churches amid COVID lockdowns

United Kingdom

More than 120 church leaders are taking legal action against the U.K. government for its “unlawful” decision to ban worship services during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

The leaders of various denominations are demanding a judicial review of the government’s decision, arguing that the “measures involve a direct and serious interference with the independence of religious organisations and freedoms of religious people.”

The Christian Legal Centre is supporting the religious leaders’ legal challenge, according to a statement by the group.

“The English and Welsh Governments have now introduced two successive sets of lockdown measures which have completely prohibited and criminalised public communal worship, a core aspect of religious life for the Claimants and their congregations,” the letter reads. “With these measures, the Governments have inflicted a terrible human cost, without rigorous consideration of less onerous restrictions, and as part of a package which leaves places of worship open for secular activities.”

Pastor Ade Omooba MBE, co-founder of the campaign group Christian Concern and who is leading the legal challenge, said, “We call on the government to recognise the vital importance of church ministry and the principle of church autonomy from the state.”

The church leaders who are challenging the second lockdown noted that they “do not suggest that Parliament cannot legislate on matters relating to or impinging upon the Church of England or any other religion. However, the respect for freedom to worship is written into the constitutional DNA of this country.”

They also argued that such extensive and ongoing restrictions have never been imposed in the country before.

Earlier this month, leaders from various faith traditions, including the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and orthodox Judaism, along with Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Pentecostal representatives, wrote an open letter to Johnson, saying: “We understand entirely that the country faces significant challenges and the reasons behind the Government’s decision to bring in new measures. But we strongly disagree with the decision to suspend public worship during this time. We have had reaffirmed, through the bitter experience of the last six months, the critical role that faith plays in moments of tremendous crisis, and we believe public worship is essential.” 

They pointed out that they had collaborated closely with health and government officials over the last six months to keep people safe.

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