Catholic Church to launch legal action against Nicola Sturgeon’s move to close churches

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Canon Thomas White has launched a judicial review of the SNP led Scottish Government’s decision to close places of worship last week. Under Scottish Government guidance, except for weddings with up to five guests, funerals with up to 20 mourners and online broadcasts, all churches must remain closed.

But in England and Wales, communal worship and funerals can continue, subject to limits on attendance.

Weddings are allowed in “exceptional circumstances” with up to six people.

Churches in Northern Ireland also remain open for services, subject to a limit on numbers dependent on individual risk assessments.

Mr White has launched a crowdfunding drive to raise £50,000 to receive Queen’s Counsel and has raised £8,000 in two days.

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Canon White, from St Alphonsus RC Church in Calton, Glasgow said the Church measures have little regard for the rights of freedom of worship and family life.

Canon White said: ‘Without any evidence or indeed any justification or explanation, the Scottish Government has impinged our human rights.

“The right of assembly and freedom of religion and the right to family life.

“Regardless of the capacity of our churches, arbitrary numbers of 20 and five have been imposed upon significant celebrations in people’s lives.

“Saying goodbye to a loved one or indeed our young generations pledging themselves to each other in marriage.”

Canon White concluded: “We want to prove that the people of Scotland have the right and freedom of religion.”

Catholic leaders from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Scotland criticised the “arbitrary and unfair” decision to make Scotland the only part of the UK with such a ban.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Scotland, added: “No evidence has been forthcoming to justify the inclusion of places of worship as sources of infection.

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“Without such scientific evidence, these restrictions will appear to Catholics to be arbitrary and unfair.”

In response, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said places of worship had been included in the latest lockdown – which was brought in to try to curb the new, faster spreading strain of COVID-19 – because of the “potential for the virus to spread” at services.

He told Holyrood’s COVID-19 committee: “Sadly and regrettably, and very much to my personal regret, that cannot exclude places of worship, because we have to acknowledge places of worship are places where people come together, there is the potential for the virus to spread.

“This is about protecting the public from a very serious virus and making sure that places of worship are able to play their part in that effort.”

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