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Judge rules against “disproportionate” restriction on freedom of worship, orders government to lift ban

French evangelicals welcome the “affirmation of freedom of worship as a fundamental freedom” and issue a guide with practical information about the re-operning of church buildings.

AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus PARIS 19 DE MAYO DE 2020 11:11 h
The Royal Palace of the Council of State, France's highest court. / [link]Twitter @Conseil_Etat[/link]

The Council of State, France’s highest court, sentenced against the government on Monday 18 May.

It “ordered the Prime Minister to take less restrictive measures” in the whole area related to gatherings in places of worship.

Among the measures announced on 11 May, the central government of France had decreed an “absolute a general and absolute ban”.

According to Euronews, the government’s decree stated that until further notice places of worship could only be used for funerals which had to be attended by no more than 20.

The judge now said the government should “place measures strictly proportionate to the health risks and appropriate at this beginning of the ‘deconfinement’”.

The ruling said that the fundamental right of freedom of worship “includes among its essential components the right to participate collectively in ceremonies, in particular in places of worships”, and that the measures of the government led by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe “constitutes a serious and manifestly unlawful interference with it”.

The government has been given 8 days to modify the measures related to worship places. A new decree, published no later than May 26, will authorise gatherings in places of worship and will specify the conditions.


Evangelicals welcome the protection of freedom of worship

Evangelical Christians in France immediately reacted to the ruling. The National Council of Evangelicals of France (CNEF) said in a statement that is “welcomed” the “affirmation of freedom of worship as a fundamental freedom which includes the right to participate collectively in ceremonies, in particular in places of worship”.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, “the CNEF has been attentive to the priority objective of public health and has sought to strike a balance between freedom of worship and the need to contribute to the protection of all”.

The evangelical body had considered the temporal restrictions on churches “justified, necessary and proportionate at the time”, but said they would be “very vigilant about the recovery of this freedom”.

In its contacts with the Government, the CNEF has made “every effort to prepare for the resumption of gatherings”. A “Guide to the resumption of activities for Protestant evangelical associations” will be published and made available online in the next few days, they said.

“Whatever the date for the resumption of gatherings, the CNEF encourages its members to respect the appropriate guidelines and recommendations”, they emphasised.

Evangelical Christians in France have been unintentionally been at the centre of a media storm after an evangelical church in the north east was accused of spreading the virus. Read more about the ‘Porte ouverte’ case and the efforts of Christians to challenge the spreading of fake news and negative stereotypes.




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