An open letter signed by over 1200 church leaders across the UK, including Oxford Ministers Glenn Nesbitt, Andy Young, and Phillip Dixon, warned that introducing vaccine passports “constitutes one of the most dangerous policy proposals ever to be made in the history of British politics”.
The cross-denominational letter follows the government’s decision to review whether certificates confirming vaccination could be required for the easing of social distancing in the hospitality sector, and the reopening of venues that remain closed, such as theatres and nightclubs.
The suggestion of vaccine passports has already sparked opposition from MPs on both sides of the Commons, who warned that the passports would be “dangerous, discriminatory and counterproductive”. The broad coalition against the measures encompasses over 70 MPs, including former Conservative Leader Ian Duncan Smith, Labour’s previous leader: Jeremy Corbyn, and Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Layla Moran.
A government spokesperson defended the review, saying that they were “considering a range of evidence around Covid-status certification and whether it may have a role in opening up higher risk settings safely”. They stressed, however, that the review is “ongoing” and that “no decisions have been taken”.
The proposals for vaccine passports have also been subject to concerns from the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission. The commission warned that while vaccine passports could “in principle” assist in easing restrictions, they risk creating a “two-tier society whereby only certain groups are able to enjoy their full rights”.
The letter by church leaders mirrored this tone, warning that the introduction of COVID passports risks creating a “medical apartheid” with an “underclass of people” who are “excluded from significant areas of public life”.
This follows concerns expressed by some religious leaders regarding the ethics of using COVID vaccines which were tested on cell lines from aborted foetuses, including those developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer. This is not to be confused with the debunked claim that the vaccines contain foetal cells.
The letter, which is addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calls on his government to “assert strongly and clearly that it will not contemplate this illiberal and dangerous plan”. Copies of the letter are also going to the leaders of the UK’s devolved governments and MPs.
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