An MP has come under fire after calling for coronavirus lockdown regulations to be slackened so people can go to church over Easter.
Jack Lopresti, MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke, wrote to communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick and culture secretary Oliver Dowden to call for the relaxation of current restrictions.
In the letter, he questioned why people are allowed to go to off-licences, takeaways or shops over Easter, but not church.
Today I wrote to The Secretary of State @mhclg and also sent a copy of this letter to Secretary of State @DCMS to ask the Government to consider opening church doors on Easter Sunday for private prayer. pic.twitter.com/pLnxdNRsEN— Jack Lopresti MP #StayHomeSaveLives (@JackLopresti) April 8, 2020
In the letter, he wrote: “I believe that it is appropriate for the suspension of public church services to be in place, as large gatherings of people in close proximity are not conducive to public health given the present circumstances.”
But he added: “I firmly believe that a temporary relaxation of restrictions, allowing for people to attend church to engage in private prayer whilst observing social distancing would be an appropriate compromise.
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He went on: “If the Government allows for me to go to an off licence, a takeaway, or a local shop on Easter Sunday, providing I observe social distancing or take other necessary precautions, why can I not go to church and say a prayer, providing I do the same?
“I ask that this reasonable proposal to allow people to reconnect with their spiritual life, whilst still observing Government instructions to reduce transmission of infection be given strong consideration.”
Lopresti has come under fire from critics – including vicars – who pointed out that people could pray privately from home and there is no need for them to go to church.
Roger Driver wrote: “As a vicar this is irresponsible and is totally opposite to all sensible advice give [sic] to us as churches - our buildings maybe shut but the churches are still open as we are finding new ways to be church.”
As a Vicar this is irresponsible and is totally opposite to all sensible advice give to us as churches - our buildings maybe shut but the churches are still open as we are finding new ways to be church— rogerdriver (@Driveroger) April 8, 2020
The irony of you with a "#StayHomeSaveLives" banner against your name writing a letter begging for people to be allowed to go out to church is quite, quite startling, Jack.— Jan Bird (@Janspics26) April 9, 2020
Another vicar added: “Apart from the fact that I’m inundated with funerals @JackLopresti - I have 5 in the next 4 days none of them #COVID19 related - and I don’t want to bury more parishioners... Your letter would have sounded better if you asked for mosques synagogues & temples to be open also.”
Liam Carr wrote: “What an irresponsible thing to suggest. You are doing a huge disservice to all your constituents who are key workers.”
Others also pointed out that Lopresti has the hashtag #StayHomeSaveLives yet is suggesting that people do the opposite, while some referred to the omnipresence of god, saying prayer could happen anywhere and did not have to be in church.