A Church of England vicar says he is being bullied out of his job for apparently breaking Covid rules.
A complaint was received by the Diocese of Salisbury against Rev Charlie Boyle, of All Saints, Brankscome, after he sang 'Thine be the glory' during an Easter Sunday service without wearing a mask.
Rev Boyle, 52, says he is being investigated and threatened with disciplinary action over apparent breaches of government and Church of England Covid guidance that are also said to include hugging someone outside his household, inconsistently wearing a mask, not taking full responsibility for risk assessments, and returning Bibles to the church building after they had been removed to prevent them being touched by multiple people.
The Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Rev Boyle, said the allegations against him were "farcical".
Video footage shows the worship team singing 'Thine by the glory' as a handful of worshippers look on. Rev Boyle can be heard singing along as he walks back and forth through the main aisle.
Rev Boyle says that he has an exemption to wearing a mask due to asthma, but that he wears one as much as he can out of respect for others and to "reassure people".
The Archdeacon of Dorset, Antony Macrow-Wood has reportedly informed Rev Boyle that he is considering bringing a Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) against him.
Rev Boyle, who is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, said, "I am deeply saddened and hurt that Covid regulations are being used as an excuse by the church hierarchy to bully me and my young family.
"Despite the pressure on me, which has affected my health, I am not going to give up on my calling just because I sang 'Thine Be The Glory' on Easter Sunday in church without a mask.
"Furthermore, I am shocked that one of the allegations against me is that I brought Bibles into a church.
"During the pandemic, due to government guidance, churches and their congregations have become places of division and fear instead of the places of prayer, refuge, worship, outreach and hope they should be.
"We must all take precautions of course, but we also have to ask the question of what Jesus would do in such a crisis?
"Churches have been forced to capitulate to government and Church of England guidance and have been prevented from supporting their communities in the biggest crisis since the war."
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "The allegations and threats against Charlie Boyle and his family are intimidating and need to be dropped.
"It cannot be right for a passionate Christian leader who has inspired his community and brought young people into the church, to be bullied out of his job on the basis of what appear to be farcical allegations.
"The church hierarchy in this case is putting government 'guidance' ahead of the need of churches and their leaders."
Responding to the claims, the Diocese of Salisbury said in a statement: "The diocese cannot comment on individual cases.
"High standards of integrity and service are expected from our clergy, occasionally clergy fall short of what is expected and complaints are brought against them.
"These matters need to be dealt with in a formal and confidential way.
"The Clergy Disciplinary Measure can be used by anyone who has a formal complaint. Such complains need to be thoroughly investigated with pastoral support always being offered at the same time."