When I saw the film footage of the outrage at Christ The King Church in Balham on Good Friday when two police officers made their way into the Sanctuary and told the priest and his congregation that their worship was unlawful and that they must go home or face a fine of £200 each, I thought I was going to have an apoplectic fit.
Was it a wind-up?
Perhaps an April fool’s prank, surely?
Could this really have happened in the UK?
I tried some mindfulness breathing techniques (yes, I did the course a couple of years ago) but to no avail.
I tried Ruby Wax’s remedy of clapping your hands so hard that the stinging sensation brings you back to the present. Alas, that didn’t work either.
I could feel my temperature rising as the Incredible Hulk within roused himself: “Don’t make me angry; you really won’t like it when I’m angry”
Nothing else for it, despite it still technically being Lent, I reached for the brandy.
I voted against these regulations, but I took the trouble to read them first, and I am confident that the police exceeded their powers.
Acts of public worship in church are specifically permitted. There is no limit set upon the numbers attending, clearly that will depend on the size and layout of the church. The regulations place the duty of conducting a risk assessment upon the church authorities, not upon the police.
Police say members of the congregation were unmasked, the church authorities say that they were properly wearing face coverings.
The police say that they weren’t sufficiently physically distanced from one another, the church authorities say that, on the contrary, they were.
For God’s sake this was a sober and indeed very sombre church service, not some illegal rave!
I disapproved of the regulations, that’s why I voted against them, but we live in a democracy and I was on the losing side, so we have to live by them.
Nevertheless, throughout the last year I’ve seen repeated instances of the regulations being confused with mere government guidance. That guidance is not the law and must not be enforced as such. Whether the confusion of the two is through ignorance or is deliberate policy, is difficult to tell. In any event, I have seen law abiding citizens being ordered to leave public places quite improperly. I’ve seen officers telling citizens that they were only entitled to go out for exercise once, for an hour each day -which is completely untrue: The regulations place no limit on the duration or the frequency of exercise. The officer was seeking to enforce government guidance not the law.
Government guidance is no more than the opinion of ministers, if the police are charged with enforcing it, then we have abandoned the Rule of Law and become no more than a police state.
My anger was not so much aroused by the enormity of two rogue police officers interfering with a church service on a most Holy occasion, as with our nation collectively: we have accepted this situation with such little protest, or even interest.
Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”