Allow religious services with 15 people, Justice Minister proposes
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Allow religious services with 15 people, Justice Minister proposes

The Eisenman synagogue in Antwerp. © Debby Kahan/Wikimedia

Belgium’s Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne is proposing to allow religious services again with a maximum of 15 people per service.

Following a complaint from Jewish organisations, the Council of State overturned the ban on religious services late on Tuesday evening, ruling that it was contrary to religious freedom.

The Council’s main issue was that certain religious marriages cannot take place due to the restricted number of people allowed to present, Van Quickenborne said on Wednesday morning.

“Jewish religious precepts require ten people to be present at a Jewish wedding in order to be valid, for example,” he told VRT, stressing that it is important that all religions will be treated equally.

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In recent weeks, Belgium’s Jewish community made headlines across the country, as several services and celebrations violated the ban on gatherings currently in force.

On Wednesday afternoon, Van Quickenborne met with representatives of various religions to find a new agreement, reports De Standaard.

His proposal now would see a maximum of 15 people allowed per service, with a space of 10 square metres per person.

Currently, a maximum of 15 people can be present at funerals, and only five at weddings. All other religious services are banned.

Van Quickenborne’s proposal will now be discussed by the government’s core cabinet, which is made up of the Prime Minister and Vice Prime Ministers, and will then be discussed at the Consultative Committee.

This, however, does not mean that there will be relaxations before Christmas. “If you look at the figures today, there is no room for it,” he said.

“We are not going to change the rules for Christmas at home,” Van Quickenborne said. “When it comes to places of worship, we have to weigh up religious freedom against the protection of each other’s health.”

If the proposal is adopted, the Ministerial Decree will be adapted on Saturday, allowing the updated rule to take effect from Sunday, within the five days the government was given by the Council of State to resolve the matter.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times