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Tunbridge Wells clergyman threatens legal action to government's lockdown ban on services

Tunbridge Wells clergyman threatens legal action to government's lockdown ban on services

By Alan Smith
November 2020

The government has closed churches to regular worship as part of the Covid lockdown, angering a minister from Tunbridge Wells.

Although churches can open for funerals, to provide child care, for essential volunteering services or for socially distanced private prayer, regular church services to a congregation are banned.

The move has angered many church leaders - including the Rev Peter Sanlon.

Mr Sanlon was the minister at St Mark's Church in Tunbridge Wells for six years before moving to become rector at the Emmanuel Anglican Church - part of the Free Church of England - in the town a year ago. The church holds its services at The Number One Community Centre in Rowan Tree Road.

He said: "There's been a long tradition in this country that there are certain institutions that the government should not interfere with - the Press, the Judiciary and the Church.

"The government has now made it a criminal offence for Christians to worship or pray together. That is wrong and they need to quickly change their minds."

Rev Sanlon was one of 71 church ministers who put their names to a pre-action legal letter submitted to the government last week threatening to bring a Judicial Review if the government went ahead with the ban.

Rev Sanlon said: "They responded that they saw no reason to change their minds."

Christian Concern is the organisation preparing the legal challenge.

Its spokesman Tom Allen said: "A decision on the next step will be taken early next week.

"People may have seen video footage of police being sent into a church in Wales during their fire-break lockdown. That police should be used to disrupt a peaceful church service is just incredible."

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