A group of Scottish church leaders is pursuing legal action against the Scottish Minsters' decision to close churches and outlaw public worship during the current COVID lockdown.
Christian Legal Centre represents the 27 church leaders from various Christian congregations, including the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), the Church of Scotland, and several independent churches.
BREAKING: A group of Scottish church leaders has launched a claim for judicial review over the Scottish Minsters’ unprecedented decision to close churches and criminalise public worship during the current lockdown.
— Christian Concern (@CConcern) January 29, 2021
Restrictions set forth by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Jan. 8 made it a criminal offense in the highest level for churches to meet in-person, even to perform a baptism.
Church officials notified the Scottish Ministers on Jan. 15, pleading for them to re-open churches. They explained that closing churches violates the European Convention of Human Rights law and the Scottish Constitution.
Additionally, the emotional and spiritual needs within the congregation and community cannot be addressed if these restrictions remain in effect.
The church leaders pointed out in their claim they clearly understand the significance of COVID-19 and the difficult decisions the Scottish Government has had to make in an effort to protect communities.
But the church officials say they believe the Scottish Ministers' have "failed to appreciate that the closure of places of worship is a disproportionate step and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion."
The Scottish Ministers' replied by denying the claim and asserted that the state can "regulate the secular activities of Churches…for the purposes of protecting public health" and that churches must "comply with secular law" and remain closed.
According to Christian Legal Centre, Scotland hasn't attempted to close churches since the 17th century during the persecution of the Presbyterian church.
Now church officials are asking for houses of worship in Scotland to remain open so people can attend services and events without fear of prosecution.
In the claim, the church leaders "hold that public corporate worship, involving the physical gathering together of Christians…are fundamental and indispensable aspects of their religion," and that "in the absence of the gathered people of God, there is effectively no church."
Scottish Ministers' say they are making decisions based on "science" to warrant several lockdown measures, including church closures.