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‘Arbitrary’ limit of 50 worshippers in Scottish churches is ‘not legal’

September 2020

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SOURCE Scottish Government/Flickr)
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Churches in Scotland have been told they should not have more than 50 worshippers in their services because of the Covid-19 crisis, but the limit is not legally binding.

The Scottish government’s guidance may change, but that is the latest situation at the time this edition of ET went to print.

The Scottish government says the limit on numbers at religious venues is recommended regardless of venue size.

The 50-person cap has not been applied to cinemas, libraries, universities, restaurants, museums, or pubs.

The guidance itself states the limit is not legally binding and that places of worship ‘should use their judgment to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and communities’.

The Christian Institute’s Director, Colin Hart, said, ‘Including something so stark in the guidance is misleading and wrong.

‘People will inevitably think it is a legal requirement or has some objective rationale. It isn’t and it doesn’t.

‘If the Scottish government thinks more than 50 people in a church is too great a health risk, then surely it would also be just as risky having more than 50 people in a cinema, pub, or restaurant?

‘Having the same blanket limit of 50 people covering a tiny chapel or a huge cathedral may delight the secularists, but it is not in the law.’

A Scottish government spokesperson said, ‘We understand the important role of congregational worship in supporting spiritual wellbeing and do not want these restrictions to last any longer than is necessary.

‘But we must ensure that people who enter places of worship to undertake congregational activities will be safe.’