COVID-19: was the closure of places of worship in Scotland lawful? Philip & Ors

In Revd Dr William J U Philip & Ors for Judicial Review of the closure of places of worship in Scotland [2021] CSOH 32, the petitioners, ministers in various Protestant denominations joined by an additional party, Canon Thomas White, a Roman Catholic priest [4], sought judicial review of the lawfulness of the enforced closure, in January 2021 of places of worship in Scotland under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No 11) Regulations 2021 (SSI 2021/3). The case raised two issues: (1) the extent if any to which the respondents had the constitutional power, at common law, to restrict the right to worship in Scotland; and (2) whether the closure was an unjustified infringement of the petitioners’ rights under Articles 9(2) and 11 ECHR [1 & 2].  The petitioners sought declarator that the Regulations were unlawful in so far as they purported to require the closure of churches in Scotland and to criminalise public worship, reduction of regulations 4(b), (e)(i) and (f)(i) of the Regulations (which removed certain exemptions which previously existed in relation to worship), and declarator that a person living in a Level 4 area might lawfully leave his or her home in order to attend a place of worship [2]. Continue reading