- LIFE SITE NEWS - Mar 5, 2021 -
David McLoone -
Within the UK, Scotland is the only nation to have a complete ban on public worship, as well as prohibiting private prayer inside churches.
GLASGOW, Scotland, March 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — At the beginning of this year, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon banned public worship for the second time since March 2020. Now, courageous Catholic priest Canon Tom White is leading a legal challenge against the Scottish government for its “disproportionate” blanket ban on worship, in tandem with 27 faith leaders of varying denominations.
Within the U.K., Scotland is the only nation to have a complete ban on public worship, as well as prohibiting private prayer inside churches. As things stand, the only legally permitted services are weddings and funerals, with a maximum attendance of 5 at the former, and 20 at the latter, regardless of the church’s actual capacity. All other services can only be broadcast online.
White, supported by faith-based legal advocacy organization ADF U.K., will present his arguments for reopening Scotland’s churches at a two-day hearing on March 11 and 12 at the highest court in the land, together with a similar challenge from
a Protestant-led group who are supported by Christian Concern.
“As a priest, I have witnessed first-hand the grief and suffering that COVID-19 has caused for my parish members,” White said on February 16 during his “Let Us Worship” campaign. “Therefore I know, as a priest, that we need to open my church to be able to support them best in their hour of need.”
White also observed in a video statement that “in particular we as Christians acknowledge that we not only have physical needs, but spiritual needs. We need to make sure we’re not neglecting our spiritual needs which is really, truly essential for the wider, holistic health of ourselves as a society.”
The priest of St. Alphonsus parish noted the disparity in the decision of the Scottish government, which “has denied the people of Scotland that which our English neighbors enjoy; that which has been valued down south doesn’t seem to be valued up here.”
“Freedom of religion is a foundational human right. This right should be limited only to the extent that is ‘necessary and proportionate.’”
Lois McLatchie, a legal analyst at ADF International, said that the government’s decision to “completely ban public worship is disproportionate and disadvantages Scottish communities.” McLatchie noted the inconsistent application of restrictions to different businesses in Scotland, where “bicycle shops have been deemed essential and have been allowed to remain open, but churches haven’t.”
“Meanwhile,” she continued, “Westminster’s Chief Medical Advisor Chris Witty says that the evidence for closing churches is only anecdotal and not even based on scientific fact.” It is for this reason, McLatchie suggests, that governments across the majority of Europe “have been able to uphold freedom of religion and belief and uphold the freedom to publicly worship.”
“It isn’t clear why Scotland hasn’t managed to do the same,” she said.