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UK News

'Shoppers can go to busy supermarket but worshippers can't pray in empty church' MPs demand PM to open churches

by Tola Mbakwe

A group of 20 Conservative MPs have written to the Prime Minster urging him to allow churches to open for private prayer, weddings and funerals as early as next month.

In a letter seen by The Daily Telegraph, they questioned why people can go to a "busy supermarket" to buy food and drinks but worshippers in need of spiritual sustenance cannot currently pray in a largely empty church".

They added: "Weddings (whether in the church porch or inside), christenings and other services are wanted; safely and soon…Ten can gather in a crematorium yet one cannot be in a church."

According to the Government's Covid-19 recovery strategy, churches can't open until 4th July at the earliest.

Places of worship have been grouped with hotels, pubs, cinemas and beauty salons in the government's plan which states they may be able to open then if they social distancing measures can be put in place. 

The letter, organised by Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley and signed by influential senior backbenchers, said the government's plan was unsatisfactory. 

It read: "We ask for clear guidance, rules removed and discretion allowed as local faith leaders stay alert and make churches, chapels and places of prayer and worship available to the faithful. Everyone understands the value of appropriate social distancing and the obligation to avoid contamination."

The letter also quoted a Catholic priest, telling Mr Johnson: "I ask you to put pressure on the Government for private prayer as soon as possible. Two-metre social distancing is easy (easier than in a supermarket) and sensible hygiene precautions can quickly be put in place.

"It seems odd that you can go for a walk, enter a busy supermarket, get on a bus, but cannot go to a large virtually-empty-for-much-of-the-time building."

According to The Daily Telegraph, the letter was sent to Mr Johnson and his Parliamentary Private Secretary Andrew Bowie over the weekend.

Signatories include Sir Graham Brady and Bob Blackman, who are part of the 1922 Committee. 
The letter came as Evangelical Alliance told a House of Commons committee that the effects of the lockdown will be dire for religious charities and churches. 

"Look beyond the immediate circumstances of lockdown and consider what support will be available for charities to continue in difficult economic times once the lockdown is lifted," it stated. 

Faith leaders met with government representatives two weeks ago and agreed to look at the timeline for churches coming out of lockdown, including possibly allowing places of worship to open at different times dependent on their community and practice. 

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