Foto: Belga

Police halt gathering at Antwerp synagogue

Police in Antwerp halted a gathering at a synagogue in the northern port city on Saturday night.  The seventy-seven people present were all sent home.  Police say that the adults can expect to receive a corona fine for infringing corona measures, but the Jewish community feels targeted and points to a ruling by the council of state to argue that the rules have not been violated.

47 adults and 30 children were present at the synagogue in the Van Spangenstraat.  All adults were ID’ed, say the police, who entered the building with permission and halted what they deemed to be a gathering.

David Braun, a lawyer and spokesman for the Forum of Jewish Organisations, insists collective religious ceremonies never exceed 15 participants at the synagogue, but points out that individual worship is allowed. He also claims the police are acting proactively more and more frequently with regard to the Jewish community.

“On the Sabbath it’s difficult to organise communal worship because so many people want to follow their faith, so it happens on an individual basis.”

He argues that if everybody is masked and there is social distancing the rules are being followed.

Belgium’s home affairs ministry concedes the council of state, Belgium’s highest administrative court, rejected the ministerial decision, a secondary law, on prayer gatherings, but explains it was the number of participants present that was at issue.  The council increased their number from 5 to 15.  Priests revisited the council seeking an exception to the 15-person limit, but that was rejected.  According to the home ministry the 15-person limit stands.

The council of state clarifies that a suspension of the law limiting prayer gatherings to 15 people was sought, but was rejected.  No exceptions were permitted.


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