Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday against a blanket ban on religious services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The constitutional court was called to hear this case after a Muslim association in Lower Saxony appealed the ban. The association stated its intention to hold Friday prayers for its 1,300 members during the remaining weeks of Ramadan. The court found that prohibiting Friday prayer without exception during Ramadan would be “an extremely serious encroachment on the freedom of belief, which is protected by fundamental rights.”
The court distinguished religious services from other banned activities, including attending music venues and using sports facilities, because of the ability to conceivably implement measures that minimize risks to public health. Certain activities, such as singing, will be curtailed because they pose a higher risk of infection. Additional precautions discussed include the use of facemasks, door handle disinfection, and crowd size reduction.
The court emphasized that individual exceptions to COVID-19 restrictions would be granted on a case-by-case basis with assistance from relevant health authorities.
This decision was issued shortly after Germany became one of the first European countries to ease lockdown measures, though authorities have recently re-emphasized the importance of social distancing.