/German top court rules against blanket ban on religious services

German top court rules against blanket ban on religious services

A blanket ban on religious services in Germany has been lifted | John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

Decision follows appeal by Muslim association.

By

4/30/20, 12:56 PM CET

Updated 4/30/20, 1:00 PM CET

Germany’s top court has overturned a blanket ban on religious services, which authorities introduced as part of restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The constitutional court ruled on Wednesday evening that exceptions should be granted in certain cases and if sufficient precautions are taken to lower the risk of infection, as banning religious services represents a major infringement on the right to religious freedom.

The ruling comes in response to an appeal from a Muslim association in the federal state of Lower Saxony, which planned to hold Friday prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started last week, under strict measures.

The association’s mosque, which has space for 300 people, wanted to allow only 24 worshippers to enter for prayers at a time, German broadcaster ARD reported. Mosque-goers would have to comply with social distancing rules and wear a mask.

A regional court, however, had sided with the government of Lower Saxony, which had implemented a blanket ban on religious gatherings. Other federal states have introduced similar restrictions.

The constitutional court’s ruling sets a nationwide precedent, and will apply to mosques as well as churches and synagogues.

Religious services are also on the agenda of a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and federal state leaders on Thursday afternoon to discuss whether and how to further ease coronavirus restrictions, German media report.