A poll commissioned by the Humanist Society Scotland has found that just 17 per cent of Scots agree that churches should be exempt from lockdown conditions. The findings come as church leaders launch a legal challenge against the government's blanket closure of their buildings due to Covid-19.
Despite the leaders being urged to "think again", the judicial review is due to go ahead, which church leaders insisting that the outcome will "not decided by opinion polls”.
Fraser Sutherland, chief executive of the Humanist Society Scotland, told the Scotsman that the findings "show that the public overwhelmingly believe that religious groups should face the same restrictions as everyone else".
"Despite this, a number of churches are taking the government to court in an attempt to overturn the lockdown restrictions so they can open for communal prayer," he added.
Sutherland argued that such actions "would not only put their own congregations at risk, but also risk further community spread" and asked church leaders to "think again – listen to reason and the scientific evidence".
Those involved in the legal challenge include representatives from the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, and a number of other independent congregations. The leaders launched the action arguing that the closures are unlawful and claiming they breach Human Rights law and the Scottish constitution. The case is supported by the Christian Legal Centre.
Restrictions were announced by Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on Friday 8 January. She has made it a criminal offence for churches in the highest tiers to hold in-person services.
Speaking after the legal action was filed, Rev. Dr William Philip, leader of The Tron Church in Glasgow, said: "Criminalising corporate worship is both damaging and dangerous for Scotland, and we are pleased that this case will be heard in March 2021.
"We must care for people as whole human beings, and Covid 19 is not the only threat to health and wellbeing.
"Our congregation of 500 in the heart of Glasgow is diverse in age and background, including some of the most vulnerable in the city. I have witnessed first-hand huge suffering through lockdown, not least a huge increase in loneliness, misery and untold damage to mental health. The worst deprivations from this ban are inflicted on the poorest, the neediest, the most vulnerable - now excluded from the comfort and encouragement in life and death only Christian worship can give.
"At a time when we have been forcefully confronted with the fragility of mortal life, we have allowed the message of the eternal to be eclipsed entirely by the earthly in the national consciousness. There is an urgent need for a message of hope and salvation. This is the calling of the Christian Church - especially in dark and difficult days: Jesus Christ is the only hope that dispels all fear, death included."