A Christian couple in Worcestershire has been issued fines totalling up £18,000 after refusing to close their shop during lockdown.
Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox, owners of Grace Cards and Books in Droitwich, have said they feel spiritually inspired to stand up for their freedoms.
Lydia told Premier Christian News: “We feel that we've got a divine right to earn an honest living,” she said.
“We felt that we were not being a health hazard, and we felt that in comparison to other shops, why shouldn't we be open because lots of other shops are allowed to be open. The bigger shops are selling sort of the same thing as us.”
Grace Cards and Books did temporarily close in January after it was given a prohibition notice. But it open again, prompting Wychavon District Council to issue the shop owners a £10,000 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) on 10th February, its fourth fine. It had already been given FPNs for £1,000, £2,000 and £4,000 due to flouting coronavirus restrictions.
Lydia said they closed the shop last spring during the first national lockdown. When the second national lockdown came around last November, they were fined £1,000, even though they started selling newspapers, drinks and confectionery in order to be classed as essential and avoid a fine.
Lydia told Premier the fact that they sell sugarcraft products, they should be allowed to stay open for business.
“A lot of people run their own cake making businesses from home, so we feel that's pretty essential.,” she said.
Wychavon District Council disagrees. It maintains that the core business is selling cards, gifts and other non-essential items and the couple should close their shop.
Cllr Bradley Thomas, leader of Wychavon District Council, said: "Despite the impact coronavirus regulations are having on businesses, the vast majority of our traders are following the rules because they want to play their part in bringing infections down to help protect our NHS and save lives.
"It's disappointing this one particular business feels the need to flout the rules and we will work with our partners to take further action, if needed, to protect the public.
"Financial support is available to businesses and we are working hard to get that money out as fast as possible. While infections are coming down in Wychavon, they are still high, and our local NHS remains under significant pressure.
"We have a plan to support businesses to rebuild once this pandemic is over. That day will come much faster if we all follow the rules and help get back on top of this virus."
Lydia told Premier that her and her husband have considered that breaking the law could be seen as a bad witness as Christian, but they still feel like they’ve made the right decision.
“We feel that there are certain lines that you can't cross,” she said.
“A lot of our freedoms have been taken away from us in this country and I think it's something that a Christian should stand up against. We should be allowed to have the freedom to be with our families have the freedom to work.”
Lydia said they’ve got mixed reactions from people in the community for staying open, but have great amount of supporters that have kept foot traffic flowing in their shop.
The couple have refused to pay the fines they’ve been issued and are prepared to fight their case in court.