MPs urge Boris Johnson to allow churches to re-open

(Photo: Pexels/Brett Sayles)

A group of MPs has written to Boris Johnson questioning why shoppers can go to a "busy supermarket" but people in need of spiritual sustenance cannot go to a largely empty church to pray. 

The letter, seen by The Telegraph, calls for churches to re-open to allow people to come in for private prayer, weddings and funerals.

It has been signed by 20 Conservative MPs, including former ministers and senior backbenchers who say that there is demand for weddings and other services, and that it is possible for these to resume "safely and soon". 

They argue that keeping a distance of two metres between people in churches is "easier than in a supermarket" and that "sensible" hygiene precautions can be "quickly put in place".

"Weddings (whether in the church porch or inside), christenings and other services are wanted; safely and soon", the MPs said.

"Ten can gather in a crematorium yet one cannot be in a church."

Signatories include Sir Peter Bottomley, Tim Loughton and Sir Bob Neill.

Under government plans, churches are set to re-open from July 4 at the earliest, but the MPs argue that many people "want further faster opening of churches and places of worship".

"We ask for clear guidance, rules removed and discretion allowed as local faith leaders stay alert and make churches, chapels and places of prayer and worship available to the faithful," they said.

"Everyone understands the value of appropriate social distancing and the obligation to avoid contamination."

The MPs go on to raise concerns that the July 4 timeline may be delayed further by "publishing regulations, decisions by diocesan bishops and local circumstances".

They continued: "It seems odd that you can go for a walk, enter a busy supermarket, get on a bus, but cannot go to a large virtually-empty-for-much-of-the-time building."

They add: "We ask that our leaders, Government and church, especially the Church of England, together find reasonably safe ways to reopen our churches for prayer, for funerals even with limited congregations and for worship sooner than July."