More than 1,000 vicars vow to defy any vaccine passport plans for churches

Gabriella Swerling
·3 min read
A Covid-19 vaccination centre in London - Shutterstock
A Covid-19 vaccination centre in London - Shutterstock

More than 1,000 vicars have indicated they will defy vaccine passport rules if they are implemented in churches, describing them as a “fundamental betrayal” of Christian belief.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister concerning vaccine passport proposals, the church leaders said: “To deny people entry to hear this life-giving message and to receive this life-giving ministry would be a fundamental betrayal of Christ and the Gospel.

“Sincere Christian churches and organisations could not do this, and as Christian leaders we would be compelled to resist any such Act of Parliament vigorously.”

“For the Church of Jesus Christ to shut out those deemed by the state to be social undesirables would be anathema to us and a denial of the truth of the Gospel,” it added.

The letter, which is signed by a mix of vicars, reverends, pastors and elders from a range of Christian denominations, also said: “There is also a legitimate fear that this scheme would be the thin end of the wedge leading to a permanent state of affairs in which Covid vaccine status could be expanded to encompass other forms of medical treatment and perhaps even other criteria beyond that.

“This scheme has the potential to bring about the end of liberal democracy as we know it and to create a surveillance state in which the government uses technology to control certain aspects of citizens’ lives.

“As such, this constitutes one of the most dangerous policy proposals ever to be made in the history of British politics...

“We agree with those members of Parliament who have already voiced opposition to this proposal: that it would be divisive, discriminatory and destructive to introduce any such mandatory health certification into British society.

“We call on the Government to assert strongly and clearly that it will not contemplate this illiberal and dangerous plan, not now and not ever.”

Signatories to the letter include Christian leaders from Baptist, evangelical, free church, Church of England, presbyterian and a range of independent churches from across the UK.

The call, backed by more than 1,100 clergy, is being led by Rev Dr William Philip, senior minister at the Tron Church in Glasgow, who led the successful Scottish church leaders’ judicial review last month.

Unlike in England, the Court of Session heard that a ban on church services in Scotland was unconstitutional and breached human rights. It marked the first legal victory against Covid laws.

The open letter, which has also been signed by Rev David Hathaway, founder and president of Eurovision Mission to Europe, comes as last week the Government was warned by its own equalities watchdog that Covid-status certificate schemes or “vaccine passports” could be discriminatory.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is reported to have told the Cabinet Office that such a measure would create a “two-tier society” in the UK.

A Church of England spokesman also warned against introducing passports, saying: "The Church has adopted a clear policy of encouraging people to be vaccinated, but, other than in very exceptional circumstances, this does not justify limiting access to church services or organisations on the basis of vaccine passports.

“Such an approach would run contrary to the principle of the Church being a home and a refuge for all.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are considering a range of evidence around Covid-status certification and whether it may have a role in opening up higher risk settings safely. The review is ongoing and no decisions have been taken."