The Welsh Government has been challenged over its decision to close churches as part of its measures to combat the coronavirus.
Places of worship in Wales will be closed until 9 November, along with pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops.
But Darren Millar, MS for Clwyd West, said churches should be recognised as “essential” and that many church leaders had contacted him expressing their “utter dismay” at the authorities’ decision.
Millar told the Welsh Senedd: “In the absence of any evidence that suggests that churches and chapels in Wales pose a significant threat of transmission of the coronavirus, closure does not seem to be a proportionate or necessary act.”
He added that places of worship “should be a place of refuge in time for crisis and therefore, there is a very good case to keep them open”.
But Rebecca Evans MS, the Trefnydd (House Leader), dismissed his concerns claiming the Government “can’t look to every single type of setting”, as it is trying to reduce the number of people the public come into contact with.
closure does not seem to be a proportionate or necessary act
In an interview with Premier Christian Radio, Millar said: “I certainly don’t think that the Welsh Government really appreciates the importance of church life for the Christian community here in Wales. You know our churches, chapels, meeting halls, they were closed longer in Wales during the earlier lockdown than any other part of the United Kingdom.”
Last week, Revd Dave Gobbett, Lead Minister at Highfields Church in Cardiff, told The Christian Institute he found the Welsh Government’s plan to shut churches “extremely disappointing”.
He said: “These are weary, confusing days for our nation. The Government is in an impossibly difficult position and they remain in my prayers. But Jesus Christ is the only hope for a hurting and divided world, and we close the doors to him at our peril.”
A number of church leaders in Wales and England have now written to Welsh Ministers to challenge the restriction.
In September, almost 700 leaders of UK churches urged the Prime Minister and First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland not to close churches again amid efforts to reduce cases of coronavirus.