Former EU commissioner brings legal challenge against COVID-era worship ban

ER Editor: Slovak Christian Democrat Dr. Jan Figel‘s biography can be found here on Wikipedia (possible bias warning). It is noteworthy that he was appointed as a special envoy for ‘the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on 6 May 2016 … His mandate expired with the end of term of Juncker Commission on 30 November 2019. No such special envoy was appointed in the Von der Leyen Commission.’

Now he is forcefully addressing ‘freedom of religion or belief INSIDE the European Union’, ironically. Kudos. Find him HERE.


Former EU commissioner brings legal challenge against COVID-era worship ban

‘Religious freedom as a basic human right deserves the highest level of protection,’ Dr. Jan Figel said.


(LifeSiteNews) — The former E.U. Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief has challenged bans on public worship during the COVID crisis at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 

Dr. Jan Figel has recently submitted legal arguments challenging the “unfair and disproportionate” worship bans during the 2021 lockdowns in Slovakia to the ECHR, according to a press release by the Christian human rights organization ADF International, who co-represents Figel together with Slovak lawyer Martin Timcsak. 

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The case could have an impact that goes far beyond the borders of Slovakia as the decision by the ECHR “would set a precedent for 46 European States with 676 million citizens,” according to ADF International.  

“Religious freedom as a basic human right deserves the highest level of protection,” Figel stated. “Prohibiting people from worship and communal religious exercise is profoundly illiberal and illegitimate. Worship bans were unfair and disproportionate. Our arguments submitted to the Court demonstrate clearly that blanket bans are violations of religious freedom under international human rights law.” 

In a video produced by ADF International, Figel explained that states may only restrict religious freedom in “rare cases.” 

“There must be a legal basis. The measure has to be proportionate and must be the least freedom-restrictive means to reach that objective aim,” Figel said. “None of those three criteria were fulfilled in the case of Slovakia in 2021.” 

“Nobody should be prohibited from peacefully exercising his or her convictions, and it was evident that religious worship could be conducted safely during the pandemic,” Figel stated. 

“Fundamental freedoms must be strengthened rather than weakened in times of crisis,” ADF International lead lawyer Dr. Adina Portaru stated. 

“The right to freedom of religion is not limited to the individual aspects of religion, but includes religious worship in community with others,” Portaru explained. “That is very clear in International and European human rights law. For that reason, there was a clear interference of this right by the Slovak government.” 

Figel also noted in his arguments that the Slovak government attempted to justify the blanket public worship bans by claiming that spirituality could still be lived out privately. However, the ECHR has upheld the notion that freedom of religion includes the “freedom to manifest one’s religion not only alone and in private but also in community with others, in public and within the circle of those whose faith one shares.” 

Furthermore, the Slovak government argued that the possibility to participate in “digital worship” is a sufficient justification for the ban on in-person worship gatherings. However, recent court rulings across Europe prove that justification is illegitimate, Figel argues. A decision by Scotland’s highest civil court found that digital worship services “are best viewed as an alternative to worship, rather than worship itself.” 

“Blanket bans ignore the central role that religion plays in the lives of believers,” Figel stressed:

“For people of faith, communal worship, spiritual nourishment, can be as important as bodily nourishment. That’s why international and European law and our very own Constitution hold[s] religious freedom so dearly. I expect that the ECtHR will consider this holistically with a keen eye for the role of human rights in a democratic society.” 

Figel’s challenge to the COVID-related worship bans has been supported by numerous groups, including the Slovak Catholic bishops’ conference. 



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1 Comment on Former EU commissioner brings legal challenge against COVID-era worship ban

  1. I’m a 70 yr. old life long practicing Christian from Montreal/Quebec/Canada. The gov. here is out right harsh toward Christians. Now the premiere is going to permit Muslims more outward rights in public but not Christians. He shut down churches over the last three yrs. to the point of damage to the foundation of our existence. We have not recovered from it. I have not been back to church since because of all those jabbed causing shedding. How I miss worshipping my LORD JESUS with my brother and sisters in CHRIST. Be Blessed thanks.

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