A bishop has condemned government plans to relax Sunday trading rules and called on Christians to raise their voices in support of keeping Sunday special.
In his sermon at Shrewsbury Cathedral on Sunday, Bishop Mark Davies said any further deregulation of Sunday trading would have an adverse impact on “human well-being” because the economic benefits cannot outweigh the “human loss”.
Bishop Davies said the plans would “place new demands upon the very shop workers and their families who have supported us throughout this crisis.”
“Whatever economic advantages the Government may calculate the human loss will surely be greater if Sunday becomes just another working day,” he said.
The bishop warned that discarding Sunday as a day of rest could also lead to the downgrading of national Christian festivals such as Christmas and Easter.
“We would be discarding the Christian heritage of a shared day of rest and all the human values which the observance of Sunday has involved,” he said.
“At a deeper level, Britain would be discarding a key element of our Christian identity, for by logical extension either Easter and Christmas Day might equally be treated as merely another working day.”
Bishop Davies added that Sunday rest is an essential part of England’s heritage and culture.
“So central is Sunday to the Christian life, that for some sixteen centuries public authorities have sought to safeguard Sunday as a day of worship and so a day of rest. From the beginning of the English nation Sunday was so distinguished as a day different to all other days.”
The bishop continued: “If degrading Sunday as a day of rest, of family, of community, of worship marginally enhanced our faltering economy it would not be justified because of its deeper impact upon human well-being.
“This is a moment for us to raise our voices, so our Christian Sunday is not discarded by a political sleight of hand.”
Bishop Davies’ remarks follow the British government’s proposal for a temporary relaxation of Sunday trading rules as part of its forthcoming coronavirus recovery bill. Critics have warned that the temporary measures will end up becoming permanent and see it as a “back-door” attempt to turn Sunday into another workday for shop employees.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that 50 Conservative MPs have warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson that they will oppose the changes, which could be enough to defeat the government if opposition parties also oppose the measures.
Conservative MP David Jones said: “There is no substantial evidence to suggest that relaxing Sunday trading hours has any effect on economic growth.
“Our constituents won’t spend more just because the shops are open longer, but trade will be diverted away from the local shops that have kept us all going during the last few months.”