Vaccine passports and places of worship

On 22 July,  the Church of England issued a New Q&A “What is the Church of England’s position on ‘vaccine passports’?“. This states:

“The Church has adopted a clear policy of encouraging people to be vaccinated, but, other than in very exceptional circumstances, it would be difficult for it to justify limiting access to church services or organisations on the basis of vaccine passports. Such an approach would run contrary to the principle of the Church being a home and a refuge for all. Similarly, only in exceptional circumstances is the Church likely to utilise ‘vaccine passports’ should they become available in order to facilitate additional services to its members or to the wider community, preferring to continue to emphasise existing mitigations.

While the Church is, in principle, opposed to making use of ‘vaccine passports’, it should adopt a flexible approach to their limited wider use with the important caveats that such use ought to be demonstrably beneficial to society as a whole, protective of the vulnerable in particular, non-discriminatory in nature and proportionate in use.

For more information please see our submission to the Government’s consultation on vaccine certification.

Comment

The final paragraph of the Q&A replicates the Conclusion to the Church’s response to the Government consultation, referred to above, although without the emboldening. This new Q&A was issued at the end of a week in which there has been confusion on the government policy on “vaccine passports”, in which some reports have suggested that these might be necessary for places of worship; the document, however, is a reiteration of policy position, no more.

On 20 June, LBC reported “Number 10 is ‘not ruling out’ vaccine passports for theatres, cinemas and churches, Consumer and Small Business Minister Paul Scully has said. It is questionable whether this is any more than the sensationalizing of the minister’s “We’re not ruling anything out” response to the question “Will it apply to theatres and cinemas – possibly church services?” .

On 22 July, Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, in his oral statement updated the House on Step 4 and NHS COVID Pass. On this issue he said [emphasis added]:

“…And as I updated the House on Monday, at the end of September we plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to those high risk settings where large crowds gather and interact. By this point everyone aged 18 and over will have had the chance to be fully vaccinated and so everyone will have that opportunity to gain the maximum possible protection.

So, as a condition of entry to these venues, people will need to show that they are fully vaccinated and proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.”

The issue was not raised in the questions to the Church Commissioners, which preceded the Minister’s statement.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Vaccine passports and places of worship" in Law & Religion UK, 23 July 2021, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2021/07/23/vaccine-passports-and-places-of-worship/

 

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