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France: Court orders ban on church gatherings to be lifted

July 2020

The French government has been ordered to lift the ban on meetings in churches within eight days by its top administrative court.

Although the government recently eased its coronavirus restrictions by allowing private meetings of up to ten people, this did not apply to religious settings.

As a result, all church meetings were still banned. This difference of treatment on religious grounds was the reason for the court’s ruling.

France’s Council of State found the ban was ‘disproportionate to the objective of preserving public health’, given the updated lockdown rules.

In the ruling, the court added that freedom to worship is a fundamental right, including ‘the right to participate collectively in ceremonies, in particular in places of worship’.

It said the French government’s restriction on church meetings ‘constitutes a serious and manifestly unlawful interference’ with that freedom, and called on legislators only to implement measures which are ‘strictly proportionate to the health risks incurred’.

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