The Council of State has just revoked the government’s copy and asked it to modify its decree within three days which limits religious services to a maximum of 30 people. A decision hailed on the right and by many Catholics.
In the debate between the Catholic Church of France and the executive since the announcement of the return of the authorization of religious services on the condition of not exceeding 30 people, the Council of State has ruled in favor of the spiritual authority. The highest French administrative court thus judged as “unnecessary, disproportionate and discriminatory” this limit to the number of faithful present in places of worship. A judgment which therefore opposes this decision announced by the Head of State during his speech on November 24.
She also recognized the specificity of spiritual practice, which she does not consider comparable to the cultural domain: “While certain establishments open to the public other than places of worship remain closed, the activities carried out there are not of the same nature and the fundamental freedoms that are at stake are not the same. “
The judges add in this text that “it does not follow from the instruction that the absolute and general prohibition of any religious ceremony of more than thirty people, while no other authorized activity is subject to such a fixed limitation. regardless of the area of the premises in question would be justified by the risks which are specific to ceremonies ”. Before explaining that “article 29 of the decree of November 27 authorizes the prefect of the department to restrict (…) if this was necessary for the most important buildings, particularly with regard to their access conditions to set a ceiling derogating from a gauge which remains to be fixed, at the national level, according to the number of square meters per person or a percentage of the capacity of places of worship ”. Magistrates therefore consider that, like commercial establishments, prefects can adapt the gauge to the size of religious buildings. For the Council of State, the government decision was therefore “disproportionate in relation to the objective of preserving public health and thus constitutes, in view of the essential nature of the component in question of freedom of religion, a serious and manifestly illegal to the latter ”.
The government therefore now has three days to review its copy, modify its decree and put in place “strictly proportionate measures to supervise gatherings and meetings in establishments of worship”.
A decision hailed on the right
In a press release published on its site, the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) welcomed the decision and considered that “the law has thus been restored and reason recognized”. The CEF also hopes that in the future “judicial recourse will remain the exception in the dialogue with the authorities of our country”.
I do not know how many will take action, but it is a tour de force to annoy the most legalistic population of France.
Representatives of religions and Prime Minister Jean Castex were to discuss this question during their meeting on November 29 at 6 p.m. “The question of the gauge will obviously be raised but it will not be decided because we will take the time to conduct the necessary consultations, within three days, with all the cults,” said Matignon.
The political right has also reacted to this decision of the Council of State. Thus Rachida Dati, mayor of the 7th arrondissement of Paris “welcomes the decision of the Council of State”.
For her part, Valérie Pécresse, president of the Ile de France region “welcomes the wise decision of the Council of State”.
#Religious Ceremonies: I welcome the wise decision of the Council of State which, recalling the importance of freedom of worship, breaks the untenable gauge of the 30 faithful and enjoins the government to take a measure proportionate to the health risk within 3 days https: // t .co / IzlL7uYutX
– Valérie Pécresse (@vpecresse) November 29, 2020
Florian Philippot, former member of the National Rally and president of the Les Patriotes political movement, welcomed the decision and also declared on Twitter that “all absurd and restrictive decisions must be attacked!”
Masses: victory before the judge.
Very good news, we must attack all absurd and restrictive decisions!
But beware: we do not want to recover crumbs of freedom. We must demand the total and immediate reopening of the territory! https://t.co/qIlOwV8FpA
– Florian Philippot (@f_philippot) November 29, 2020
Despite this decision, the protest movement of Catholics, wishing the end of restrictions on masses, continues its gatherings as was able to see this November 29 a reporter from RT France.
The restriction to 30 people maximum for religious ceremonies decided by the government had caused a strong feeling of incomprehension within the Catholic community. Thus Jean-Pierre Denis journalist for the Christian weekly Life declared on November 26 on Twitter: “The government seems to be pushing certain bishops, priests and faithful towards civil disobedience, if I judge by what is circulating. I do not know how many will take action, but it is a tour de force to annoy the most legalistic population in France. ”
With its gauge of 30 pekins, the government seems to be pushing certain bishops, priests and faithful towards civil disobedience, if I judge by what is circulating. I do not know how many will take action, but it is a tour de force to annoy the most legalistic population of France.
– Jean-Pierre Denis (@jeanpierredenis) November 26, 2020
The Catholic intellectual Pierre Manent, had even mentioned in a forum at the Figaro a “deliberate offense against the Catholic Church”.
Some priests present on social networks have also expressed their incomprehension, such as Father Jean-Baptiste Nadler who evokes a measure “disproportionate[e]”.
Since the start of the second confinement and the total ban on religious services, many Catholics had already gathered for street prayers to challenge the restrictions decided by the government in order to stop the Covid-19 epidemic which has already killed more than 52,000 people in France.