Changes have been made so that church open-air meetings in Northern Ireland will not be affected by a proposed Parades Bill, it was announced yesterday.
Before the changes, the draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill would have required any meeting of 50 or more people in a public place to apply for permission at least 37 days in advance.
But yesterday The First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland agreed to alter the proposals so that open-air meetings will not be affected.
The news will come as a relief to Christians who were concerned the proposals would unjustly interfere with their freedom to hold services in the open air.
First Minister Peter Robinson announced the changes following the results of a public consultation.
He said: “The primary change will be the removal of all public meetings from the remit of the legislation.
“The public consultation process indicated concern that open-air and other similar public meetings would be captured by the legislation. This was not the intention and this amendment will absolutely clarify this.”
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: “This decision is sensible and the improved bill will be welcomed by many across the province.”
He added that “church open-airs will no longer be covered by the bill.”
The Christian Institute had responded to a public consultation on the proposals, calling for the preservation of open-air freedoms.
Spokesman Mike Judge said: “This is a welcome development and it shows how important it was that Christians engaged in the consultation process.”