Scottish Court Rules Closure of Churches Unlawful – Bishops’ Reaction Awaited…

Nicola Sturgeon’s coronavirus regulations that forced the closure of churches in Scotland and criminalised public worship have been deemed unlawful.

Some representatives from the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) and a number of independent churches launched a claim for judicial review against the rules that closed churches during lockdown.

The group of 27 church leaders launched a case at the Court of Session arguing Scottish Government ministers acted out with their powers when ordering the closure of places of worship under emergency legislation.

Their case has now met with success just ahead of new guidance out on Friday allowing churches to open with congregations of up to 50 people.

Judge Lord Braid issued his judgment on Wednesday, finding the Scottish Government regulations were unlawful as they disproportionately interfered with the freedom of religion secured in the European Convention on Human Rights (EHRC).

He said: “It is impossible to measure the effect of those restrictions on those who hold religious beliefs.

“It goes beyond mere loss of companionship and an inability to attend a lunch club.

“The fact that the regulations are backed by criminal sanctions is also a relevant consideration.

“Were the petitioners to insist on manifesting their beliefs, in accordance with their religion, they would be liable to be met with a fine of up to  £10,000, a not insignificant penalty.

“The above factors all point towards the conclusion that the regulations have a disproportionate effect.”

“There are however other factors which point the other way, not least the severity of Covid-19 and the threats posed by the new variant, which I do not underplay in the slightest. This factor deserves considerable weight.

“The need to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed is another factor, although if I am correct in saying that the risk is reduced to an insignificant extent by the regulations, this factor attracts less weight.

“The fact that much public opinion, including that of other faiths and church leaders, supports the closures is also a relevant consideration, which I thought initially might carry some weight.  [Emphasis added].

“However, I have concluded that it does not, for a number of reasons.”

Additional party Canon Tom White’s argument that the regulations were disproportionate on constitutional grounds was also found to be the case by the judge.

A further hearing will now take place so potential remedies can be discussed.

The petitioners have asked for a declarator that a person living in a Level 4 area may lawfully leave their home to attend a place of worship.

Churches are due to be allowed to open on Friday under Scottish Government guidance.   Click here to read above report at source – Daily Record

Comment:

Thank you to our Protestant friends who brought this challenge to court. And notice that the fact that the Bishops (‘church leaders’) supported the closures, might have cost the case.  Maybe now they will show some backbone and refuse to go along with further restrictions on the worship of God.  For, some day, they will hear a similar, if much more damning (literally) judgement from the highest authority imaginable…

This ruling will, of course, be a disappointment to those apparently work-shy clergy (see report on page 6 of our current, March, newsletter) who have expressed enthusiasm for the lockdown closures. This will come as something of a blow to them.  No ‘Church of the New Abnormal’ after all… Shucks. Ach well… back to the future…   

33 responses

  1. That is fantastic news, but it’s all thanks to the Protestants who brought the case. Well done, them.

    It will be very interesting to see the response from the bishops. So many clergy and laity are now so terrified of the virus, ignoring the fact that most people recover from it, they must be pessimists, thinking they will be that 1% who don’t LOL!

    • Lily,

      Yes, it’s fantastic news, all thanks to the Protestant churches who brought the case.

      The bishops now have no excuse to open up again and stay open. Then I hope they treat us like grown ups and leave us to take our own risks if we want. Nobody should be forced to do any of the stuff that is considered “safe”. If they want to tape off three rows at the back of the church for the scaredy cats, that’s fine but the rest of us should be left to sit where we want to.

      • Josephine,

        “If they want to tape off three rows at the back of the church for the scaredy cats…”

        LOL – or they could go sit in the cry room, which could then be labeled the “Victims of Propaganda Room.”

      • Josephine,

        That’s it in a nutshell – leave us to take our own risks. End of discussion. That is what the Government should have done from the get-go.

    • Lily,

      Yes, it’s definitely great news. I just hope they hold fast now, and don’t close down again.

  2. Protestants 1, Catholic clergy 0. Funny how well this fits the NWO project, which is to transform the Church into a hapless, impotent, corrupt, effeminate, politically correct shadow of herself, while building up every false religion that can be found.

    • RCA Victor,

      I agree – the Church does look hapless and impotent, like in this case laming following the Protestant church leaders who challenged the government. I find it totally cringeworthy.

    • RCA Victor,

      Honestly, all this skirting round the issue. When will you learn to speak your mind? I tried and failed to find an assertiveness course which I could recommend for you so I settled on this… to make you smile 😀

      • Editor,

        I’ve been reading that famous how-to book, “How to Lose Friends and Put People Off.” Can you tell?

    • “Credit”? LOL! I call it embarrassing to join the legal action instead of leading it, and that’s what the bishops should have done IMHO.

      • Fidelis,

        I agree and I also wonder why one priest should have done that? Did he have to get the bishops’ permission and if so why put his name to it instead of the Conference of Bishops?

        The plot thickens, LOL!

        • Joesephine you ask a very serious and strong question there .I went to Confessions last week and after the Sacrament i spoke with our Priest of whom i have high regard . We spoke of the present Climate Etc ( not in the Global Warming Garbage i have to make clear ) and He said that he has to watch what he says .I have already heard he was reported to His Bishop for giving out The Eucharist on the Tongue at the TLMass . Of course the Person or Persons that reported him of this Dirty Deed obviously do not nor never have attended our TLMass and obviously do not know that is the way the Eucharist is given out. Whether the same people reported us for Kneeling whilst receiving the Body of Christ of that am not sure . As for our local Protestant Church it seems as if Nippy has won a watch their . The Minister said to our Priest that its not opening up again .

          • Margaret Mary,

            I might be wrong, but I understand Canon White was originally trying to raise his own case and later joined the ‘ecumenical’ effort due to receiving little support.

            He wanted to raise £50,000 originally, a figure which should be loose change to a community of nearly 3/4 of a million people.

            As of this morning, only £32,925 has been raised, the amount boosted by news of the victory and overseas donations.

            I note that Canon White has now raised the target figure to £85,000.

            I do not know what the increase is for?

            Maybe he wants to go to Disneyland to celebrate his victory? 😉

            • Gabriel Syme,

              Remembering how much money the Catholic Church – certainly in the archdiocese of Glasgow – has wasted over the years, there should have been no need for crowd-funding, although due credit goes, of course, to Canon White for his attempt.

              However, his action only serves to underline the scandal of the bishops’ compliance with this entire evil enterprise instead of taking the lead in fighting for the “spiritual supremacy” of the Church over the State and announcing that churches would NOT close.

              What’s that? Oh yes. Sorry, I’m distracted, just been reminded that such episcopal leadership will come about a few days after Hell freezes over. Silly me for forgetting…

    • Eileen McBride,

      I joined the Bank of Scotland in my youth. Just think of the difference it would have made to my life if I’d started it!

  3. Canon White won`t be any more popular now with the bishops than he was with the ones who spat at him during a July `walk` that passed by his church a couple of years ago.

    I even suffered from a by-law from our parish priest who threatened to close the church altogether when he found out that we (three of us) were still having the rosary on a Friday morning. In those days we weren`t allowed to talk even in church. It resulted in only two of us, my wife and I, continuing.

    • Frankier,

      I’d forgotten about the Orange Walk incident.

      I do remember your experience when you continued your rosary after lockdown – how disgraceful that you were treated so badly. These are the real “Covidiots” – irrational in the extreme.

      I’m sure, though that your rosary effort won many graces. How could it be otherwise?

      • Editor

        I read somewhere recently that the Church is aiming to introduce six new, environmental-saving sins, aimed, no doubt, to gaining a Valentine`s card from David Attenborough.

        Would it not have been a sin, therefore, for my own parish priest to use on me a law restricting my desire to pray in church which has now turned out to be unlawful?

        Just asking for a friend, like.

        • Frankier,

          That was my first thought when I heard this news, that anyone who has been fined for breaking that bad law, should now be exonerated and not have to pay the fine.

          I heard that a priest in Dennistoun, Glasgow, was fined £10,000 for having people in his church for Mass, but I’ve not been able to verify that. Surely, nobody should have to pay up now.

          TBH, the people I’d be suing if I did have to pay up, would be the bishops. I don’t suppose a priest can do that but the laity could.

  4. I am afraid I don’t share the optimism shown on this blog and by other fellow Catholics on the proposed opening of the churches in Scotland from this week-end.

    As far as I can tell the same restrictions as last time will be in place, i.e. having to book a place in advance; sanitising before entering; social distancing; mask wearing; receiving Holy Communion in the hand etc. etc. Or perhaps they have been added to!

    I consider all these things as an affront to Almighty God. You can either serve God or the Devil. All these compliances with the Communist regulations of our Government are serving the Devil. I refuse to comply.

    I have just read Lord Braid’s judgement on the judicial review and I am horrified by his comments that the reaction of our Bishops might have lost the case. To quote him “ The beliefs of some church leaders clearly differs from those of the petitioners and the additional party as whether on-line worship is worship; but the beliefs of the petitioners and the additional party are valid nonetheless ( even if they are minority beliefs). Clearly, some church leaders agree with the decision to close the churches and consider Regulations themselves (as opposed to their effects) to be proportionate.” Ouch! Hope that hurt! It must have been very difficult for Canon White to have to sit there and listen to that. But God will reward him for making his stand
    .
    So in the light of what I have just written, I don’t see much chance of the Bishops in the near future, finding any backbones to refuse any further restrictions that this totalitarian government might dream up next.

    • LittleBellsofGold,

      I don’t think “optimism” of any kind has been expressed on this thread. Bloggers are rightfully delighted that the State has been put in its place by a secular court. I think we’d all have been even more delighted if the bishops had done so at the outset, but – well – the rest is history, as you will know.

      Of course, you are correct about the continuation of the ridiculous restrictions which priests have enthusiastically put in place in churches – I said so in my introductory comment above: “Maybe now they will show some backbone and refuse to go along with further restrictions on the worship of God.

      The Scottish bishops no longer receive our bi-monthly newsletter – their names and the names of their minions in the Scottish Catholic Media Office were removed on the occasion of our 100th edition in the Gospel spirit of no longer casting pearls, shaking off the dust etc.

      However, by exemption, each bishop received a copy of the current – March – edition with a compliments slip attached which contained the following short message:

      Dear [Name],

      Attached, please find a courtesy copy of our current (March 2021) bi-monthly newsletter. My opening comments are addressed to the Scottish Bishops, so this one-off copy is sent to you for that reason.

      I would add only this: it is, sadly, an objective fact that, by closing churches during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Scottish Hierarchy has placed Christ the King in second place to the diktats of an almost openly Marxist State – in direct contradiction to Catholic Social Teaching.

      My plea is now, therefore, that you will draw the line, announcing that our churches will not close again should there be any further restrictions imposed in the months to come. There can be little doubt – given our fraught religious history – that the Scottish Government would dismiss any thought of “taking on” the Catholic Church. And there can be no doubt whatsoever, that such a brave decision, reflecting Catholic integrity, would bring down blessings from Heaven.

      Kindest regards [signed]

      True to form, not one single reply has been received from any Scottish bishop.

      I suspect you are correct about the bishops continuing to enforce the scandalous restrictions, which amount to a very grave insult to Our Lord, but at least now their cowardice and ignorance has been revealed for all the world to see.

      That’s worth celebrating – just imagine the bishops’ reaction… which is all we can do, since their notice about re-opening in time for Easter has not been updated at the time of this writing. So, we can only speculate…

  5. I am pleased with the verdict, late though it is, it is right to establish the principle.

    A shame it took so long here, given there have already been similar victories elsewhere in the world some time ago.

    In some ways, its a bit of a hollow victory given it has not made any great change to the closures which were now at an end anyway.

    Re the meek Bishops, whose role seems to consist only of ecumenical photo ops and the consumption of oxygen: I thought Canon Tom was acting as a proxy for them, perhaps I am wrong.

    I wonder to what extent the Bishop’s performance here is due to them being in thrall to the SNP, or to the fact that they did not think they could rely on the support of Catholics to challenge the Government?

    No both issues played apart, the Bishops and their flunkies are too cosy with the SNP, thinking a supine posture counts as relevance. But as of this morning, figures indicate that only approx 0.073 % of Scots Catholics donated to Canon Tom’s effort (517 out of 705,500). Even if we assume half were people unable to donate – children, or the less well off etc – its still a miserable number.

    Its a hard sell to portray that figure as a faith community desperate to get its Churches re-opened, so I am glad the Judge recognised the validity of minority views!

    • Gabriel Syme,

      I wouldn’t be surprised if you are right about the bishops considering whether or not the (entirely fearful) Catholic community would support any action to challenge the State but that should not be an issue – not remotely. They are supposed to lead – not follow public (or Catholic “public”) opinion.

      Personally, I don’t believe that they were one bit bothered about the closure of churches. In fact, they anticipated the Government ban and closed churches ahead of time.

      Nor do I believe that Canon White was acting on their behalf. The Scottish bishops are supportive of the socialist SNP – that is crystal clear. And we all know what that means in terms of Catholic Faith and Morals.

      In any event, the fact is, there would not have been any need for consideration of legal action if the bishops had said “no” to the Government from the outset. Goodness me, it took a judge in a secular court to tell the Government that it has no jurisdiction over spiritual matters! Gimme a break!

      My only concern now is whether or not the bishops will challenge this court ruling. Nothing surprises me any more. Nothing…

  6. I would have thought that the churches would open right away since the court gives permission (LOL!)

    Yet, today being the Feast of the Annunciation, there are no Masses announced anywhere that I can see.

    I bet it’ll be the usual format – a committee will be formed to decide when to reopen and what restrictions to put in place, LOL!

    I say LOL but it’s really no laughing matter. Today is such a major feast – the ideal day, really, to re-open and give glory to God for that court decision, unless it’s not a decision that the bishops actually welcome?

  7. Does anyone know if the SSPX in Scotland will start opening their churches right away, today if possible? Or will they wait for the bishops to issue a statement?

    • Josephine,

      I would expect the SSPX churches in Scotland to open with immediate effect. There is no reason for them to wait for the bishops to give instructions.

  8. This article comes across as biased, it’s making out it was the protestants who fought for our churches to be opened, dont forgot we had the great canon White whose catholic, who also fought the good fight.
    Editor: the report is not biased. It’s reporting the facts. It WAS the Protestants who brought the case. If you read through the comments, you will see that bloggers acknowledge that Canon White joined the Protestants’ case – but they brought the case. No Catholic did that. Canon White – I believe – did intend to bring a case, but could not raise the funding; thus he decided to join the Protestants in bringing the case to court. Whereas, of course, the bishops should have (a) refused to close the churches in the first place and (b) having failed to do that, taken court action themselves. Let’s wait now, to see how long it takes them to re-open the churches. Do NOT hold your breath…

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