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Northern Ireland U-turns after tightening restrictions on broadcasting church services

by Tola Mbakwe

The Northern Ireland Executive has backtracked after putting in place harsher rules on the broadcasting in places of worship.

On Friday the government amended legislation decreasing the number of people allowed in a place of worship for the purpose of broadcasting or pre-recording from eight to four until 11th December. This was already on top of a ban on in-person services in place during the nation’s lockdown.

After pressure from the Northern Ireland Evangelical Alliance and others, the Executive scrapped its amendment to regulations and has allowed up to eight people in a place of worship for broadcasting purposes.

A pastor in Belfast told Premier he’s glad they got rid of the rule and said the government’s control on churches angers him.

Rev Paul Burns of Adullam Christian Fellowship  said: “Similar to North Korea and China, the State is now trying to control the Church,” he said.

“The Church needs to stand up and say ‘you don't control the church, we are separate'. The State seems to think we're a department of the government, which I'm categorically stating, we’re not. And if you want to persecute us, when I'm prepared to suffer so the Church can grow and so the Church can take a stand.”

This is the second time the Executive has backtracked this week. It initially said churches had to close during the two week lockdown, but then decided to allow churches to be open for individual prayer and host drive-in services. 

Churches can also open for weddings and funerals with up to 25 people in attendance.

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