Vallance: ‘we haven’t got good evidence’ to justify forced closure of churches
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has this afternoon admitted to the Science and Technology Committee that SAGE “haven’t got good evidence” to justify imposing the new lockdown measures on churches.
Asked by Conservative MP Mark Logan “what advice does Sage give to Government in making decisions where evidence is weak, for example on the closing of places of worship?” Sir Patrick said, “you’re right we haven’t got good evidence on the exact value of each intervention on R. We produced a paper suggesting what that might be in different areas but really said look this is not a very exact science at all.”
Logan also asked “how much transmission do you think has taken place within places of worship. Is it significant or is it quite negligible?” Sir Patrick answered “I don’t think we have good data to answer that with any degree of certainty.”
His colleague Prof. Chris Whitty even praised faith communities for being “extraordinarily responsible in the way they’ve tried to address this”.
The Christian Institute, which is supported by thousands of churches across England, recently criticised the “glaring inconsistencies” in the Government’s plans, which allow universities to function normally – despite being hotspots for COVID transmission – while shutting down churches which have successfully avoided major outbreaks.
Responding to Sir Patrick’s admission, Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute said today:
“Yesterday we asked where the evidence was to justify this restriction on the fundamental right to worship. Today we learned there is none. This is shocking.
“No-one underestimates the challenge of COVID but if the Government is going to keep universities and garden centres open while forcing places of worship to close, they should at least have a clear justification. It’s now apparent that they don’t.
“This is especially hard to understand given that churches have been rigorous in complying with COVID rules. They really should be allowed to continue as they were. It’s not too late for the Government to amend its regulations. Failing that, they can bring forward new amending regulations in the next week to fix this problem.”
Speaking yesterday, Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said:
“It is good that the Government has specified that churches can continue to open their doors for foodbanks. Physical needs should be met. But spiritual needs must be met too. Church attendance is a solution to isolation and fear. Right now we need more church attendance, not less.
“But the Government appears to think garden centres are more important than churches. People will be allowed to spend as long as they like browsing for potted plants and garden furniture, but they will be fined for breaking the law if they meet for an hour or so to worship God. This is just wrong.
“The Government’s actions in March could be justified. This cannot. Public worship has not been suspended since before Magna Carta. Since then, through plagues and the Blitz, churches have remained resolutely open.
“We recognise the huge pressure the Government is under, but we urge Ministers to think again. They must amend the regulations to allow places of worship to meet so long as social distancing and other measures are in place.
“Jesus taught that “Man does not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). Churches can open as food banks to distribute bread but cannot open as churches to preach the word of God. The spiritual needs of society are being ignored. Public worship is not an optional leisure activity. It should not be treated as such.”
Notes to Editors:
The Christian Institute is a non-denominational registered charity, which seeks to promote the Christian faith in the UK.
It was founded in 1991 by Christian church leaders and professionals and it currently campaigns on a range of issues including marriage and the family, child protection, pro-life concerns, drugs, religious liberty and education, as well as Christianity and the constitution.
For media enquiries, please contact Simon Calvert on 07802 796512 or Alistair Thompson on 07970 162225