Scottish communities are the only in the UK that faced a total ban on churches due to Covid-19.
In Canon Tom’s parish in The Calton, Glasgow, grief is no stranger. The area is home to three of the most deprived communities in the whole of the UK, with a reported life expectancy worse than that of Bagdad.
Now, the effects of the pandemic are weighing heavily on the community.
“As a priest, I have witnessed first-hand the grief and suffering that Covid-19 has caused for my parish members. Therefore I know, as a priest, that we need to open my church to be able to support them best in their hour of need,” says Canon Tom White.
The Scottish government, however, have completely banned all Churches from opening; even while authorities in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and most of the rest of Europe have managed to find solutions which maintain public worship with safety measures that protect public health.
Meanwhile in Scotland, “essential” businesses, including bicycle shops, remain open. Westminster’s chief medical and scientific advisors have conceded that the evidence for closing Churches is “very weak”. Assertions referring to transmissions when travelling to-and-from Covid-secure Church meetings is “anecdotal” rather than based on “scientific fact”.
Why have the Scottish government adopted such a disproportionately restrictive approach to freedom of worship? A question that the government was not able to answer before the Court.
On 24 March, the Court ruled that the blanket ban on Scottish places to worship is unlawful.