The government’s lockdown restriction aimed at dealing with the rising cases of coronavirus has affected many organisations including places of worship, which are currently only opened for events such as funerals, broadcast act of worship, and individual prayer. As a result of this second lockdown, gathering for worship or prayer would constitute a criminal offence.
A group of over 70 church leaders, supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican communion, has agreed to start a legal challenge against the government’s decision. The person leading this challenge is Pastor Ade Omooba MBE, co-founder of Christian Concern and pastor at New Life Assembly.
During a conversation with BBC World Service about why Churches should remain open, Pastor Omooba said, “Never in our history have our churches closed. Churches have never been closed – not during wars, plagues or famines. They have always been a place of respite.”
He explains that the freedom to worship is enshrined in law in the UK: “The government doesn’t have to legislate to criminalise worship services. Churches in the UK have been responsible, compliant and considerate, ensuring that they follow guidelines without the necessity of legislation.”
Pastor Omooba continued, “We challenged this at the first lock down, and the government revoked it. We withdrew the initial challenge, now again they’ve brought it (lockdown) back. We don’t even have the scientific evidence from the government, that the spike can happen from a place of worship. We have asked for evidence that what we do in the church [is dangerous] – there is no evidence.
He agreed that we have a very serious health situation in the country. He said, “That’s why majority of Churches have been very responsible in complying with government guidelines. Churches have adapted and complied with directives like social distancing, sanitisation, track and trace, monitoring attendance, etc, without legislation.
“While you can have football going on, even an event called Strictly (Come Dancing), are all happening with social distancing in place, why can’t churches continue to operate with social distancing as well.” He argues.
Pastor Omooba concluded, “It appears the government want the all our valuable voluntary services like foodbank, funeral, bereavements counselling, soup kitchen, and support to the vulnerable to continue, but the core of what we do which is church services is expected to seize without no evidence that worship services contribute to the pandemic.”