Support the Amess Amendment
The brutal murder of Sir David Amess, the Conservative MP for Southend West, has reverberated across the world. This appalling act was an attack on Western values of democracy and freedom.
One disturbing detail emerging from this tragedy was the news that Sir David, a devout Catholic, was denied the comfort of a Catholic priest as he lay dying.
On hearing the news that Sir David had been stabbed, the local parish priest Father Jeff Woolnough hastily gathered up his stole and holy oils and rushed down the road to offer spiritual comfort to the MP, who was also his friend, but was refused permission to enter the cordon by the police officer on duty.
The police have subsequently explained this decision as being necessary in order to preserve the crime scene and to restrict access to allow for the emergency services. The response has not acknowledged the important comfort and healing that the presence of a priest may bring to the victims and their families in such terrible situations.
For Catholics, the Last Rites are seen as a crucial emergency service and a person should never be willfully deprived of the opportunity to receive the final sacraments, unless there is a compelling reason, such as serious risk to the safety of others.
This clearly did not apply in the case of Sir David, as the assailant had already been apprehended, there were several witnesses and it would have been very simple to eliminate the priest’s DNA from any investigation.
Being able to both administer and receive the Last Rites is an issue of fundamental religious freedom. Experienced priests are able to administer the sacrament in such a way that it does not obstruct medics.
The ‘Amess Amendment’ has now been introduced into the House of Lords to add to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill, and this would allow entry to a crime scene to ministers of religion in order to perform religious rituals or prayer associated with dying.
Sign the petition calling on the CEO of the Royal College of Policing, the Home Secretary and the Minister for Crime and Policing to respect the needs of religious minorities and support the Amess Amendment.