Hundreds of UK church leaders have warned the prime minister that vaccine passports for entry into venues is “one of the most dangerous policy proposals ever to be made in the history of British politics”, with the “potential to bring about the end of liberal democracy as we know it”.
An open letter to Boris Johnson, signed by more than 1,250 clergy from different Christian denominations across the UK, says the “introduction of vaccine passports would constitute an unethical form of coercion and violation of the principle of informed consent”.
It says people may have valid reasons for being unable or unwilling to be vaccinated against Covid, “including, for some Christians, serious issues of conscience related to the ethics of vaccine manufacture or testing”.
Covid status certificates would be “divisive, discriminatory, and destructive”, it adds. “We risk creating a two-tier society, a medical apartheid in which an underclass of people who decline vaccination are excluded from significant areas of public life. There is also a legitimate fear that this scheme would be the thin end of the wedge.”
It adds: “This scheme has the potential to bring about the end of liberal democracy as we know it and to create a surveillance state in which the government uses technology to control certain aspects of citizens’ lives. As such, this constitutes one of the most dangerous policy proposals ever to be made in the history of British politics.”
The letter says there is “no logical sense in terms of protecting others” in introducing Covid status certificates as a requirement for entry for venues, which could include churches.
“If the vaccines are highly effective in preventing significant disease, as seems to be the evidence from trial results to date, then those who have been vaccinated have already received protection; there is no benefit to them of other people being vaccinated.”
Describing the proposal as “illiberal and dangerous”, the signatories say: “As Christian leaders we … envisage no circumstances in which we could close our doors to those who do not have a vaccine passport, negative test certificate, or any other ‘proof of health’. For the church of Jesus Christ to shut out those deemed by the state to be social undesirables would be anathema to us and a denial of the truth of the gospel.”
Many church leaders have backed efforts to persuade people to be vaccinated against Covid. The Give Hope campaign, launched in February, sought to dispel vaccination concerns, particularly among black churchgoers.
This week the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) told the Cabinet Office that Covid status certificates being considered by ministers risked creating a “two-tier society”.
According to a submission seen by the Guardian, the EHRC said Covid-status certificates could be a “proportionate” way of easing restrictions but said they risked further excluding groups among whom vaccine take-up is lower – including migrants, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and poorer socioeconomic groups.