The decision to close churches in Scotland while others across Europe remained open is being challenged in a hearing today (Thursday 11 March).
A total of 27 church leaders from different Christian denominations across the country brought the action following the decision by the Scottish Government to criminalise public worship in churches as part of its lockdown restrictions.
They will contest State interference in the human right of religious freedom in Scotland at a time when churches in England, Wales and Northern Ireland remained open with safety measures in place.
The two-day full judicial review began at the Court of Session this morning. It comes just days after the announcement that places of worship can reopen on 26 March.
Canon Tom White, parish priest of St Alphonsus' Church in Glasgow, is one of those taking part in the judicial review.
A Glasgow priest has launched legal action against Covid-19 related church closures. Scottish worshippers currently face criminal penalties for going to church, in contrast to their English neighbours who can attend with safety measures in place.#ADFInternational pic.twitter.com/lJVs3ia5bu
— ADF International (@ADFIntl) February 24, 2021
No other Catholic clergy are part of the legal action. However three bishops, including Archbishop Leo Cushley, have individually submitted affidavits (written statements).
In his affidavit, submitted in a personal capacity, Archbishop Cushley challenges the proportionality of criminalising the opening of churches, which the Scottish Government imposed without consultation.
He does not dispute whether or not churches should be open or closed at this time but instead highlights the lack of consultation with Bishops from the Government, the imposition of seemingly arbitrary numerical caps (50 and 20) and the characterisation of public worship as 'non-essential indoor contact'.
If successful, the judicial review could see the Scottish Government's blanket ban on public worship due to the Covid-19 pandemic deemed unlawful.
Read more about the full judicial review here.