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November 29, 2017 2:25 pm

European Jewish Organizations Back Legal Action Against Belgian Ban on Kosher Slaughter

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A Kosher McDonald’s franchise. Photo: Geogast via Wikimedia Commons

European Jewish groups are expressing solidarity with Belgian Jews after the local community commenced legal action following bans on kosher slaughter from the country’s two largest regions – Wallonia and Flanders.

The Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations has filed suit against the Walloon ban in Belgium’s Constitutional Court and seeks to have the law overturned on the grounds that it violates freedom of religion.

In a statement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews declared its support for the suit and said, “If the legislation is not annulled prior to coming into force in 2019 it would undermine the ability of minority faith communities to practice central tenets of their religions in Belgium. Such legislation violates EU law on this issue, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Belgian Constitution itself, all of which guarantee freedom of religion.”

The suit was initiated by the president of the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations Yohan Benizri, who denounced the law, saying, “Irrespective of its justification, a ban on kosher meat production sends a message to Belgian Jews that they can choose between living in Belgium and practicing their religion, but they cannot do both. It sends a clear message to Belgium’s Jewish and Muslim communities that they are not welcome here. This is a violation of Belgian constitutional principles, EU law, and the freedom of religion enshrined as a fundamental right – we will challenge it as such, in Wallonia and in Flanders.”

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The Board of Deputies’ Senior Vice President Richard Verber commented, “We stand resolutely with our friends and colleagues in the Belgian Jewish community as they challenge this unjust ban which strikes at the heart of sustainable Jewish life in Europe. We have previously raised this issue with the Belgian Ambassador to the UK with unsatisfactory results and completely understand that the community has been left with no other option but to pursue all legal avenues open to it.”

A spokesperson for the Conference of European Rabbis also expressed solidarity, stating, “We are offering support to the Belgian community and trust that good sense will prevail.”

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