Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has called on the British government not to close churches again, saying that people “need the solace of faith.”
In an op-ed for the Financial Times, the Lib Dem MP said churches have shown they can open safely and that closing them again should only be a last resort.
Fr Farron wrote that although he initially enjoyed the novelty of online services at the start of lockdown, he became increasingly troubled by the closure of churches.
“Now, as Covid-19 cases rise and we await new lockdown measures in England, I feel strongly that churches should not be asked to close again,” he wrote.
Although there have been “reassuring noises”, Mr Farron pointed to the example of the Republic of Ireland which has just forbidden public Masses once more even though it is not even at the highest level of lockdown.
“Another concern is that churches meet many community needs other than worship and these have had to be scaled back or stopped,” he added. “Churches have been finding a range of creative ways to help out, acting as food banks, making NHS scrubs, and taking supplies to the elderly, housebound and vulnerable.”
The former Lib Dem leader accused the government of “sidelining” the importance of spiritual health and cited a letter signed by hundreds of Protestant ministers calling on the government to keep churches open.
“Churches have shown they can open safely, with sanitiser, masks and social distancing,” he added. “Closing them should be a last resort.”
Mr Farron, who is an Evangelical Anglican, led his party from 2015 before stepping down after the 2017 general election. During the election campaign, he faced repeated questions over his religious beliefs and his views on homosexuality. Announcing his resignation, Farron said he found it “impossible” to lead his party and be a faithful Christian.
“I seem to be the subject of what I believe and who my faith in is,” he said in his resignation statement. “In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.”
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