Council of State rejects appeal on ban on religious services

Council of State rejects appeal on ban on religious services
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The Council of State has rejected a case brought by a group of young Catholics aimed at overturning the existing ban on religious services with a congregation.

The ban is part of the measures introduced in March to try to combat the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Religious services where a congregation is present are not permitted, along the same lines as concerts or sporting events with spectators.

Some churches in the meantime have taken to new technology to have Mass celebrated by a lone priest while the congregation looks in online.

But the group of young Catholics claimed that the ban was an unconstitutional ban on the free exercise of religion. Similar groups in Germany and France had previously been successful in overturning the measure in those countries.

However the Council of State saw no reason to invoke a serious emergency which would have justified using an interim measure to lift the ban.

The applicants have waited too long to bring their action, the ruling said, while it has now been clear for some time that religious services will not be opened up until June 8 at the earliest, as part of the government’s exit strategy.

That passivity, the Council said, undermines the claim that there is an emergency.

In any event, the government is about to announce on June 3 its next phase of dismantling the lockdown measures, which it has made clear will include measures concerning religious services.

The group who brought the action said it was disappointed in the ruling, and declined to rule out further legal steps should the June 3 announcement not include a relaxation of the ban on religious services.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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