A Conservative MP who is calling for evidence about whether freedom of religion has been compromised by the lockdown has said she does not think churches in England should have closed in November and should not close if there is another lockdown.
Fiona Bruce, the MP for Congleton, told Premier church leaders feel like they weren’t consulted for the November lockdown in England and that the short notice around the rules for weddings this year has been unhelpful.
Bruce said: “There’s a sense amongst the churches that they’ve gone through a great deal of trouble to make their buildings Covid-secure over the period when meetings were allowed before the last lockdown, and they were disappointed then to be closed again.”
She said many church leaders feel there was “a lack of effective consultation” before the second lockdown, “whereas there has been a lot of consultation with other organisations such as trade unions.”
Bruce is part of the Joint Commitee on Human Rights which is currently taking evidence from the public on whether they think their human rights have been disproportionately affected by the lockdowns. The committee is taking evidence on freedom of religion in partiuclar and wants to know whether people think the closure of places of worship was disproportionate.
Speaking about her own view, Fiona Bruce said: “I have to say that whilst my general view is that the Government has had a very tough call to make overall during this pandemic, I have a lot of sympathy with the church leaders who believe that they could have been better consulted.
“I wrote to the Prime Minister myself on 4th November at the beginning of the recent lockdown, to say that I would have preferred churches to have remained open, and that whilst I was supportive of the need for a restriction on our freedom, I felt that that was a wrong call and that the churches should remain open.”
Bruce added that if the country was to shut down again, she strongly thinks churches should stay open.
“If there is another need, and we certainly hope with vaccinations around the corner that there won’t be, but if there’s another need for a very severe lockdown we want to see churches remaining open. That has been a message which has been sent to the Prime Minister during this recent lockdown, not only from myself, and not only from two-dozen members of parliament, but also the Evangelical Alliance which represents about 3,300 member churches and has raised concerns about this.
“The Bible talks in Hebrews 10:25, ‘do not forsake meeting together’. Here is the Bible speaking to us in the 21st century, as of course it speaks for eternity for all times, very clearly saying that there is nothing like gathering together to encourage and support one another in church.”
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