Belgian Constitutional Court hears lawsuit against kosher meat ban

Press Release – For Immediate Release
January 25, 2019

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Nathan Miller or Liat Distler
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BRUSSELS – A hearing took place in the Constitutional Court of Belgium on Thursday in the case against legislation banning kosher and halal slaughter. The lawsuit was brought by the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations (CCOJB), the representative body of Belgian Jews, with support from The Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and litigation fund that files legal cases against anti-Jewish discrimination around the world.

The CCOJB and Lawfare Project’s lawsuit challenges legislation passed by Belgium’s two biggest regional parliaments, Flanders and Wallonia, that makes traditional kosher and halal slaughter methods illegal in Belgium. The ban came into effect in Flanders at the start of this year and will be imposed in Wallonia this summer. Half of Belgium’s Jewish population, and the majority of Belgium’s kosher meat preparation, now halted by the ban, is based in Flanders.

The CCOJB and Lawfare Project’s lawsuit argues that the ban on religious slaughter methods violates the religious freedoms guaranteed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The European Court of Human Rights has previously described kosher slaughter as "an essential aspect of practice of the Jewish religion."

The Coordinating Council of Islamic Institutions in Belgium also filed a lawsuit against what is seen by many as an attack on religious freedom. During Thursday’s hearing, the court heard from a wide variety of plaintiffs. It will now decide whether to reach a decision itself or to refer the case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Jewish communities in Europe are sensitive to attacks on their religious freedoms, including those involving kosher meat. On April 21, 1933, less than three months after Hitler came to power, the Nazis banned kosher slaughter as one of their first legislative assaults on German Jews.

Brooke Goldstein, the Executive Director of The Lawfare Project, which is supporting the lawsuit, said:

“Belgian Jews regard this as an assault on their religious freedom. Belgium’s courts will recognize the ban for what it is—discrimination and hostility against minority faith communities.”