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America is not the only country engulfed in a war to protect religious freedom. In Scotland, 27 church leaders have sued their government for “criminalizing” church services and setting unreasonable standards for Christians to be able to meet for worship.
Numerous religious leaders and organizations in Scotland have taken proactive steps to call for the COVID-19 lockdowns to be reversed. They state that shutting down churches “prohibits them from supporting the material, emotional and spiritual needs in their congregations and communities,” despite the rhetoric coming from authorities.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a decree on Jan. 8, 2021, that prohibits Scots from gathering for worship and baptisms, which makes Scotland the only nation in the United Kingdom to have shut down churches. The only exceptions are that 20 people can gather for a funeral and 5 for a wedding; church are only allowed to hold virtual worship services.
In a statement, Scotland’s Catholic Bishops said the lockdown measures are extreme and harming those who need the support of the church, explaining,
“Public worship was a human right and provided an ‘essential contribution’ to people’s spiritual welfare…. No evidence has been forthcoming to justify the inclusion of places of worship as sources of infection. Without such scientific evidence, these restrictions will appear to Catholics to be arbitrary and unfair.”
Other church leaders stated that the lockdowns inhibit the Church’s ability to reach disenfranchised people. Rev. William Philip, who leads the 500-member Tron Church in Glasgow City Centre, stated that the poorest, oldest, and most vulnerable will be “excluded completely from the possibility of Christian worship, and the comfort and encouragement in life and death only this can give.”
Despite the backlash, Sturgeon remained steadfast in her decision, stating, “This virus transmits when people come together, and therefore, we have to reduce as far as possible the places where people are coming together.” She added, “I have no interest in closing anywhere if it is not necessary to do.”
Sturgeon’s logic for the shutdowns is weak. Of course, sicknesses spread when people gather — that’s how viruses have always spread. So why suddenly do we need to shut down churches because people might get sick?
This is just a poorly disguised attempt to control and snuff out religion, a hallmark of totalitarian societies. Nations like Communist Russia, Nazi Germany, or Mao Zedong’s China all attempted to eradicate different religious groups because they believed that only the government is worth worshipping and that they can dictate a person’s beliefs through fear. Christianity especially opposes this philosophy, since we believe that there is only one God and we must serve Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength — not the government.
Even though it is discouraging to see multiple governments attempt to supress religion worldwide, it is encouraging to see that believers still gather for Church, are standing up for their right to worship, and continue to serve others. Worship is a choice made by the individual, and choosing a belief system is the single-most important decision one can make — one that cannot be dictated by the government. The government does not grant us our rights — God does.
As Christians, when faced with the choice of whether to follow a government’s orders or God’s commands, we must always remain loyal to Him, whatever the cost. James 1:2-3 states: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” While we might face persecution for a time, we will receive a reward in heaven if we are faithful to God.