The ban on public worship under Level Five coronavirus restrictions is “way too excessive” and unnecessary, according to the man challenging the shutdown in court.
Businessman Declan Ganley has taken the State to the High Court over the blanket ban on religious services, arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.
He has claimed that preventing people from attending mass breaches their right to the free practice of religion.
Earlier this week meanwhile, the court heard that the ban may be advisory rather than legal – meaning it has not been an offence to celebrate or attend Mass throughout the pandemic.
The State has now been given until mid-April to clarify whether or not there is any law against masses being held in public.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Mr Ganley said the blanket ban is “disproportionate” and insisted that Churches can safely reopen with the right COVID mitigation protocols in place.
He said there has been a “trend across the democratic world” whereby challenges have been brought against religious bans and won – most recently in Scotland.
“It is a matter of proportionality, this is the ruling we got from the court in Scotland yesterday,” he said.
“A complete shutdown is way too excessive and what we are looking for is COVID mitigation.
“So, reduce the numbers, reduce the capacity – the churches are doing this anyway – everyone has to wear a mask, everyone has to social distance; you do that and the risk is de minimis (minimal) and frankly, the total lockdown is totally risk averse and has been proven in the case of masses to be unnecessary.”
He said a recent study in the US suggested that, with the right guidelines in place, Churches can reopen with little or no risk of transmission.
“So, there were a million masses held in America where they looked at what happened,” he said. “This was after lockdown was relaxed over there.
“The number of instances of COVID-spread traced to those masses was zero – even though there were asymptomatic people in attendance – because of social distancing, because of mask wearing, because of the use hand sanitisers and one-way traffic management.”
He said he does not expect to see any COVID surge if mass services are reopened.
“As long as people are following the rules – wearing masks, keeping social distancing, following the one-way traffic processes that are in place; there is rigorous cleaning taking place and churches have trained stewards – as long as that is being done, the science frankly says the risk is de minimis.”
The case is due back in court on April 13th.
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