MPs have invited the public to submit written evidence on whether they believe their religious freedoms have been compromised by the Government’s restrictive measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The call comes as part of the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ (JCHR) examination into the impact of lockdown restrictions on human rights and whether those measures only interfere with human rights to the extent that is necessary and proportionate.
The committee is particularly interested in the impact of long lockdown on certain groups, including religious communities.
The JCHR, chaired by Harriet Harman, is now seeking views on ‘the impact of lockdown on the freedom of religion and belief, and in particular on collective worship. Have interferences with the freedom of religion and belief been proportionate?’
Places of worship were initially shut as part of the first lockdown across the UK, with churches livestreaming Masses to virtual congregations.
As various sectors were reopened and churches remained closed, many Catholics began campaigning for the safe re-opening of churches, questioning the Government as to why non-essential shops, as well as other buildings, had received the green light, while places of worship hadn’t.
Each of the four nations has opened and closed places of worship at different times throughout the pandemic amid varying degrees of restrictions and the JCHR is now asking the faithful whether these measures have only interfered with human rights ‘to the extent that is necessary and proportionate’.
The committee is also seeking the views on the impact on university students; care home and hospital visits; those who live in areas subjected to the most stringent, lasting, lockdown conditions; protestors and the use of police measures.
Those who wish to submit evidence must write no more than 1,500 words through the online portal by 11th January 2021.
Picture: A woman prays at the closed doors of Westminster Cathedral ahead of Easter morning Mass during the initial Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year.