Enterprise Bill

Written evidence submitted by Pastor Peter Simpson, Minister of Penn Free Methodist Church (ENT 53)

Written evidence submitted by Penn Free Methodist Church concerning the proposal in the Enterprise Bill to devolve Sunday trading regulation to local authorities.

Penn Free Methodist Church is known as a campaigning church in respect of issues where public policy and government legislation impinge upon Biblical morality and the nation’s Christian identity.

This submission argues that the Public Bill Committee for the Enterprise Bill should reject any proposed new clauses which devolve Sunday trading to local authorities, and thus open up the possibility of Sundays becoming no different to any other day of the week in terms of high street bustle and general commercial activity.

SUMMARY

1. The theological arguments

2. The constitutional argument

3. The freedoms of Christian workers

1a. We refute most strongly the attitude that the only arguments which need to be taken seriously on this issue are the economic ones, and that theological considerations can be relegated to the realm of the impractical or even fanciful.

1b. The Government must consider that they are making proposals for further deregulation of Sunday trading against a background of the currently allowed six hours ALREADY representing a flagrant attack upon the nation’s Christian identity. The new proposals, therefore, compound an existing error.

1c. A press release issued by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 2nd February 2016 stated, "We want to see the benefits of economic growth being felt in every corner of the country" and a press release on 9th February stated, "In Sweden full deregulation has increased turnover by 5%".

From these statements we see that the Government is setting up the growth of the economy as the supreme prize for national well-being. Recognition that a breach of one of the Ten Commandments is being proposed is nowhere to be seen. The Lord Jesus Christ said, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).

The Government’s assumption that trading on the Lord’s Day will inevitably lead to beneficial economic results ignores the Biblical teaching that a nation’s economic prosperity is linked to its obedience to God’s commandments (e.g. Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

We respectfully remind the Government that the manner in which the Christian Sabbath is treated, the day of Christ’s resurrection, is a barometer of a nation’s standing with God. Man does not live by bread alone. He needs spiritual refreshment, as well as the material necessities of life, and he is under an obligation to worship and honour His Maker. The need for one day of rest in seven is woven into our make-up as human beings, and the principle only works properly where most in society are sharing the same day of rest.

1d. Longer Sunday opening hours in the retail industry will have a knock-on effect on other occupations, e.g. Police, distribution and street services, and so the Christian identity of the nation will be further diluted.

1e. We reject the argument that practising Christians are only a minority in society and so should not influence the nation’s lawmaking. Our answer to this is twofold :

Firstly, the Government has been quite happy for the whole of society to embrace through statute law the beliefs of the minority LGBT community.

Secondly, God’s laws have always had application to the whole of society, Take the seventh commandment on adultery, for example. This is not just relevant to practising Christians, but applies universally.

2a. The 1688 Coronation Oath Act requires our head of state "to the utmost of her power to maintain the laws of God". This means that her Majesty’s ministers should not, without being in breach this act, present legislation to her for signing which is contrary to the laws of God.

3a. The fact that workers are being given an easier opt-out to refrain from Sunday working (by having to give only one month’s notice) will not alter the general climate within a retail organisation that Sunday working is the normal and ‘done thing’. Furthermore, opting out may harm the promotion prospects of Christians doing so, and they may also be less likely to be accepted for employment in the first place, if the culture of an organisation is that Sunday is no different to any other day.

Pastor Peter Simpson,

Minister of Penn Free Methodist Church (since 1990).

February 2016

 

Prepared 15th February 2016