Ban on collective religious worship
Since March 2020 people were requested not to come together with many. With the first lockdown all religious services in public were prohibited, and as such most religious groups found ways by using the internet meeting systems to hold virtual meetings.
For the first time, the Belgian Council of State rejects a national corona measure:
the total ban on collective religious worship is in conflict with religious freedom. The government will have five days to adjust the rule.
Up to coming Saturday included almost all physical worship services are prohibited, but that measure must be adjusted by Sunday at the latest so that they are, in some way limited, possible. Yesterday the government met with the faith communities and came to an agreement to allow public services again.
The lockdown measure was originally in effect until December 13, but it was wiped out on November 28. Then the measures were extended until January 15 next year.
It was not possible, according to some Jewish organizations, who looked at the Jewish holiday Hanukkah and at the postponed marriages, because since March this year marriages could not take place, because at least 10 men have to be present as witnesses and must be able to pray simultaneously, plus the rabbi, the couple and their parents or one of the parents. (The maximum until now was only 5 people, which excluded the parents, because for a legalisation of a marriage bond there has to be the couple, the mayor or marriage official of the registry office and two witnesses.) Those who love each other were bounded to wait because according to the religious law they are not allowed to live with each other and to have sex with each other before they are married for the religious community. To wait so many months is not fair on them. Until now them marrying was not possible according to the current rules, which only allow 5 people to a marriage. The Council of State now ruled that the complainants are right.
“There is a disproportionate restriction on the freedom of worship because the government has not even provided for the possibility to have the collective practice of worship at least – by way of exception and under conditions – in certain cases, possibly only on request. stating the place and time. “
It is a judgment in summary proceedings, a judgment on the merits has yet to come.
“But it is very unlikely that the Council would suddenly come up with a different judgment,”
said lawyer Elke Cloots, who defended the complainants.
In concrete terms, worship services in a limited form will therefore be possible again from 13 December,
“That applies to all religious communities. Of course in a safe way, with the measures that the minister will work out together with the communities.”
Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) had a meeting with the various religious communities in our country and found a way for the right balance between freedom of religion and public health.
Now people can record a religious celebration for broadcast with ten people and for weddingservices and funerals 15 people would be allowed in the service.
Soon, the Jewish community will also be celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of light.
“If there is an exception, we have to see that we treat religions on an equal footing,”
said Van Quickenborne, who also warned there is not yet a time to relax and come together with many.
“If you look at the numbers today, there is no room for major relaxation, “
” We are not going to tinker with the rules for Christmas at home. That had already been decided by the government. When it comes to places of worship, we will have to make a good trade-off between freedom of religion and protecting each other’s health. “
Michael Freilich (MP of N-VA) is satisfied with the opinion of the Council of State.
“A ban can no longer be explained when non-essential shops, swimming pools and museums are open,”
he said in a response.
“The judges recognise freedom of religion as a core value and accept the argument that one should also be able to experience this collectively.”
However, according to Freilich, it cannot be the intention to throw all corona measures overboard now and therefore on television he urged everyone who will participate in a worship service to follow all guidelines, just as people have to do in public spaces, on public transport, in the shops and in the museums.
Imam Brahim Bougaleb from Lokeren also expects his religious community to respond with relief.
“Many Muslims ask to be able to live their spirituality in places of worship,”