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Court hears case against the forced lockdown of Scottish churches

April 2021 | by Mike Judge

Advocate Aidan O’Neill QC
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A legal action brought by a group of 27 church leaders arguing against the forced closure of places of worship has been heard by the Court of Session.

The group claims that Scottish government ministers acted outwith their powers when ordering the closure of churches under emergency legislation.

Gathered church worship has been banned in Scotland, even though it has been allowed – with social distancing measures – in England.

It has been announced that the Scottish ban may be lifted on 26 March (after this edition of ET went to print), but the group still believe the legal action is necessary to establish a point of principle.

One of the 27 church leaders, William Philip, Minister of The Tron Church in Glasgow, has highlighted the importance of the case.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, he said, ‘We feel that, not just the closure of churches, but the criminalisation of any gathering for Christian worship for really more than half of the past year in Scotland is a really damaging and dangerous thing to have done.’

The church leaders taking legal action come from a variety of Christian denominations including the Free Church (Continuing), Baptist, and Evangelical traditions.

Speaking in support of the legal action, Advocate Aidan O’Neill QC said, ‘When we look at it from a religious perspective it’s a state who prefers mammon to God – the banks will stay open, the economy needs to keep running, you still need to go to work, but you can’t go to church because those are the essential things and church isn’t essential.

‘A democratic state is one that has got to have space for allowing the churches to say we actually prefer God over mammon.’

He added, ‘What this is about is reminding the government that it does not have absolute power. They have chosen to criminalise worship – there were all sorts of other things which they might have chosen to do.’

At the time this edition of ET went to print, a ruling in the case had not been handed down.