Church leaders threaten legal action over Welsh firebreak

·3-min read

Christian leaders have urged the Welsh Government to not close churches during the firebreak lockdown.

They have written to First Minister Mark Drakeford asking him to review the measures that will ban churches from hosting services with a congregation for three consecutive Sundays.

The letter, which threatens to seek a judicial review, says the closure of churches is an “extreme interference” in freedom of thought, conscience and religion under Article 9 of the Human Rights Act.

Under the firebreak regulations all places of worship will be closed in Wales from October 23 until November 9.

Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals will continue to be held during the firebreak.

The regulations also allow faith leaders to broadcast services from places of worship in the absence of a congregation.

First Minister Mark Drakeford gives an update on Wales' two-week 'firebreak' lockdown
First Minister Mark Drakeford gives an update on Wales’ two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown (Ben Birchall/PA)

Pete Greasley, senior pastor at Christchurch in Newport, said: “It is vital for a church that serves on the front lines of a community in need to be able to meet and worship together.

“For 25 years we have served the people of Newport and beyond – materially, emotionally and spiritually.

“We run the Newport Foodbank, which local people need urgently at this time.

“We also work extensively with social services, the police and the local health board who use our facilities at a reduced cost.

“If our church is not able to function properly then neither can these important services.

“We are particularly concerned that this decision by the Welsh Assembly does not recognise how vital spiritual well-being is to a community.

“Through this letter we are urgently appealing to those in authority to reconsider the closure of churches and to recognise the crucial role churches play in the community across Wales and the rest of the UK.”

Pastor Kevin Berthiaume, of Calvary Chapel Cardiff, said: “I do not envy the Government’s position and recognise that the management of this crisis must be overwhelming.

“However, rather than shut down churches, the Government should have employed them.

“Throughout our history it has always been the influence and power of the church that has sustained people through the darkest of times.”

Clyde Thomas, lead pastor at Victory Church in Cwmbran, said: “At our church we work across the board with people from all walks of life.

“Church services are like the pit stops that refuel and enable a car to race. At a time of national crisis, local church communities are more important, not less.”

The church leaders are being supported by the Christian Legal Centre.

Chief executive Andrea Williams said: “In the face of a crisis the answer is not to shut down churches that provide the safe havens in our communities.

“Churches are often the glue that hold our communities together; often places where the most vulnerable in our society and those hurting from Covid find community and hope.

“To shut the churches is to shut the places of refuge and rescue in our society.

“The Welsh Government must think again, understand the role of their churches and allow them to be open.”

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