More than 1,200 church leaders have urged PM Boris Johnson not to introduce Covid vaccine certificates, saying they are an “unethical form of coercion”.
In an open letter, the leaders – who include Anglican and Catholic ministers – warn passports could create a “surveillance state”.
The government says it is reviewing whether to use vaccine certificates and “no decisions have been taken”.
The UK equality watchdog says passports could create a “two-tier society”.
Government ministers have said that certificates would allow people to show if they have been vaccinated, had a negative test or had natural immunity from a confirmed infection in the previous six months.
A government spokesperson said: “We are considering a range of evidence around Covid-status certification and whether it may have a role in opening up higher risk settings safely. The review is ongoing and no decisions have been taken.”
The the open letter stated
The introduction of vaccine passports would constitute an unethical form of coercion and violation of the principle of informed consent. People may have various reasons for being unable or unwilling to receive vaccines currently available including, for some Christians, serious issues of conscience related to the ethics of vaccine manufacture or testing. 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 leading to a permanent state of affairs in which COVID vaccine status could be expanded to encompass other forms of medical treatment and perhaps even other criteria beyond that.
Finally, as Christian leaders we wish to state that 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.
The government’s suggestion of vaccine certificates has united MPs from all sides of the Commons, with No 10 facing criticism from those in both Conservative and opposition parties.
More than 70 MPs railed against the plan earlier this month, arguing that demanding medical proof in order to take part in local community life, such as going to the pub, was discriminatory and divisive.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was “very worried” vaccine passports could lead to discrimination against people who have not received a jab.