A group of church leaders has launched legal action over the closure of places of worship in Scotland under recent Covid-19 measures.
Backed by the Christian Legal Centre, they are seeking a judicial review after Scottish Government ministers refused their request for church buildings to be allowed to reopen.
A court decision on whether to allow the legal action to proceed is expected in the coming weeks.
The 27 church leaders and pastors involved come from a range of Christian denominations and include the Reverend Dr William Philip, who is minister of The Tron Church in Glasgow and a Trustee of The Christian Institute.
In a recent interview for the ‘Sunday’ programme on BBC Radio 4, Revd Philip explained why the group was prepared to go to court to see churches reopen.
He said that the “enforced closure of churches” and the “criminalising” of public worship was “unlawful”, and that the government’s actions had deprived Christians of their fundamental human right to “freedom of worship”.
‘Rule of heaven’
Revd Philip told presenter Edward Stourton: “The Lord Jesus Christ calls us to love our neighbours and we do that, of course, primarily by witnessing to the ultimate rule of heaven, but also by supporting good earthly government”.
He added: “We’re not enemies of Government. We want to help the Government, but we just believe the Government’s made a mistake here”.
The church leader said that churches had “met safely” during the summer and that preventing people from gathering now was causing more harm than good.
While acknowledging that churches can still meet remotely, Revd Philip added: “It is a fundamental part of the expression of Christian worship to be able to gather as the Church”.
He also expressed concern that many people were excluded when worshipping remotely, including “the poorest, the oldest” and those with the “least resources”.
Whilst voicing regret at launching legal action, Revd Philip said: “There are more important things even than physical health and safety.
“We’re living through an epidemic, but we’re living through an epidemic of enormous fear that has been engendered in that, and that is something that only the Church of Jesus Christ can answer.”
He concluded: “We have the most important message of all.
“It’s a message of hope in darkness, it’s a message of salvation in the face of fear, and death isn’t just a chance for some of our population, it’s a certainty, isn’t it, for every one of us?
witness the worshipping church holding out the gospel of eternal life
“What our society needs always, but very especially in the midst of a time of great fear, is to witness the worshipping church holding out the Gospel of eternal life.”