Belgian High Court Ends Ban on Gathering for Prayer

Police seen outside a shul in the Belgian city of Antwerp, in this 2014 file photo. (Joods Actueel/Flash90)

Prompted by a petition by Jews from Antwerp, Belgium’s high court ruled that 15 will be allowed to attend prayer services.

According to the judgment, there is “a disproportionate restriction on the freedom of worship because the government has not even provided for the possibility of allowing the collective practice of worship to continue at least, by way of exception and under certain conditions, in certain cases, possibly only on request, specifying the place and time.”

Belgium, a nation of 11 million, has the world’s highest death rate per million inhabitants of the coronavirus, with more than 17,500 dead.

The ruling Tuesday by the Council of Stater, a federal constitutional court, was on a petition filed by David Braun, a Jewish lawyer from Antwerp, and several other members of synagogues in that city for an injunction against an emergency measure that said up to five people may gather at a house of worship for wedding and funerals.

The Forum of Jewish organizations in the Flemish Region commented: “The fact that non-essential shops, museums and swimming pools were opened whereas houses of worship needed to remain closed was unacceptable.”