Judicial Review Allows Places of Worship in Scotland to Reopen
Last week Scotland’s Court of Session ruled that the Scottish government had acted beyond its powers under COVID-19 laws when forcing places of worship to close.
Janys Scott QC, representing 27 church leaders in Scotland, argued that the “primary purpose for worship is not for social or mental well-being. Public worship is a robust central aspect of the practice of the Christian both individually and as a church.”
The Petitioners stated that they were unclear on the reasons for the Government’s decision to close places or worship, saying that the Government had not properly considered steps that churches were taking to reduce the risk of spread of the virus and that the steps interfered with provisions for religious freedom that are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Although Scotland’s lock-down restrictions were due to ease shortly after the ruling and would allow communal worship to resume, judge Lord Braid agreed, issuing a ruling that churches, synagogues, and mosques could re-open with immediate effect.
Lord Braid clarified his ruling, saying, “I have not decided that all churches must immediately open or that it is safe for them to do so, or even that no restrictions at all are justified. All I have decided is that the regulations which are challenged in this petition went further than they were lawfully able to do, in the circumstances which existed when they were made.”
Limits on congregation size and the number of worshippers remain in place, meaning that provided that the two-metre rule can be supported up to 50 people may attend if the venue is large enough.
A full transcript of the ruling can be found at the Christian Concern web site.
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