The county’s top three Church of England clergy say they are “concerned” by the plan announced by Chancellor George Osborne in last week’s budget to allow shops to stay open longer on the Sabbath.
The Bishops of Blackburn, Lancaster and Burnley oppose the idea and say it will erode even further what should be “a special day of the week.”
“I am concerned on a number of counts about these proposals,” said the Diocesan Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Julian Henderson.
“First, a measure of consistency across the country rather than massive variations is a really important cohesive factor in our society.
“Secondly, the erosion of a special day in the week that is different from others is a further important move away from one of those traditions that has moulded our life as a community. A day of rest for the wellbeing of society is key for family life as well as personal health.
“Thirdly, my chief concern is about the implications for employees who say they will not work on a Sunday because they wish to attend Christian worship.
“While I am sure that promises will be made to safeguard such people, inevitably over time pressure will be brought upon them and those wishing to keep Sunday clear of work will be disadvantaged in the employment market.”
The Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev. Geoff Pearson, added: “Sadly, the Chancellor wants to relax Sunday trading laws. Will someone please tell him what a gift it is to have a day of rest and recreation?
“It can be a day of fun when we can give precious time to key relationships. The significance of the Sabbath goes far beyond Christians choosing to worship God in celebration. Every shopping day the same. How boring and sad.”
And the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev. Philip North, said: “ The move by the government concerns me very deeply. I worry about it on many different levels. As a Christian I am concerned about anything that stops people from worshipping. But my main problem is about the rhythm of people’s lives. Happiness is not something that can be bought in a shop.”