The Spanish authorities still maintain severe restrictions on public meetings and also religious services. In late February it was officially announced that public marches with up to 500 participants will be allowed on the International Women's Day, March 8th, which was demanded by feminist groups. At the same time, restrictions have already been announced for Holy Week celebrations and other church-related festivals, on the grounds that Holy Week processions are riskier than Women's Day marches. Fr Francisco José Delgado criticised the official decisions, saying that they were not primarily a matter of health policy: "The Ministry of Health advises against these marches, showing this is more about the political confrontation between the political parties in the government than from a real concern for the health of the people, which has been missing in the decisions that have been made since the pandemic started".
In February, Facebook permanently deleted the page of Core Issues Trust (CIT) on the grounds that the charity is in breach of its community standards. Since June 2020, LGBT activists have viciously attacked the site and refused to recognise people who previously identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. During this time, Facebook did not respond to the attacks against CIT and its employees, even though their personal safety was at risk. Now Dr. Mike Davidson, CEO of CIT, wrote a statement on the case in which he makes clear to continue to platform "the voices of those who with free conscience express the transformation they experience and the Christian convictions that are important to them and protected by Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights".
In 2019, the local authority of Pforzheim, Germany, prohibited the assemblies of the "40 Days for Life" group that was peacefully and silently praying in front of a pre-abortion advisory center. The group's concern is to pray for women struggling with abortion and for their unborn children. The legal human rights organization ADF International is now challenging the prohibition in court, in order to ensure that the group's fundamental rights to freedom of religion, assembly and speech will be reinstalled.
An employment tribunal told on December 16th, that a CEO was exposed to bullying, hostility and harassment because of his christian view on same-sex marriage. Kenneth Ferguson files his former employer, the Robertson Trust for unlawful termination, discrimination and religious harassment. He claims that the Trust's chair, Shonaig Macpherson, became "incandescent with anger" after she found out that the Stirling Free church was hiring a Trust property. Mr Ferguson is an elder and treasurer of the Stirling Free church, which is opposing same-sex marriage and abortion.
On December 7th, four christian preachers, known as 'the Bristol Four', are accusing the Avon and Somerset Police for their brutal arrest. Mike Overd, Don Karns, Mike Stockwell and AJ Clarke have made considerable claims against the police. The case raises important concerns about the right to freedom of speech, and the freedom of Christian preachers in the UK to express their religious beliefs and have the right to gather in public.
On December 1st, Scotland's Justice Secretary has affirmed that regarding to SNP's hate crime bill, one could be prosecuted for stating that men cannot be woman. The Hate Crime and Public Order Bill (Scotland) was intended to criminalize expressions and attitudes perceived as "abusive" and aimed at "inciting hatred" against particular groups. However, in return it restricts freedom of speech and lacks it's sufficient protection.
On November 29th, the Council of State in Francerejects the 30-person limit for religious celebrations. The government's restriction was found to be "disproportionate". In the next three days a new system must be implemented that is more in line with the right to freedom of religion and worship.
Young-Ai Park was publicly displaying prints of Bible verses on the walls of her restaurant in Berlin. She was accused of "hate speech" and subjected to a police search and a fine. On November 25th a court in Berlin has upheld the restaurants owner's right to freedom of religion and speech and found the search warrant issued by the district court unlawful.
On November 24th, Pope Francis beatified 127 Catholics who were killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in the 20th century. At the same time the hashtag demanding Catholic priests to be burned alive became a trend on Twitter. Tweets with the hashtag #FuegoAlClero, which means "Burn the Clergy" were permitted by Twitter. Some of those tweets included pictures of priests with their heads in flames and others labeled priests as "pedophiles" and "thieves". Although Twitter's current user policy states that the promotion of violence on the basis of religious affiliation is not allowed, these pictures of priests in flames were not removed until the 25th of November.
On November 25th, the Bremen District Court sentenced the protestant Pastor Olaf Latzel for hate speech. He had made several strongly derogatory statements about homosexuality based on his understanding of the Bible, for which he repeatedly apologised. The pastor has been sentenced to a fine of 8.100 Euro. According to the court, he had incited hatred against homosexuals and intersexuals. Olaf Latzel announced he will not accept the sentence. His lawyer demands an acquittal.
According to a new survey more than a quarter of students in the UK, 'self-censor' their opinions. They are afraid that their views will collide with the values promoted by the university. 40 percent do not express their opinion because they fear it could ruin their careers. Another sign of a free speech crisis is that 27 percent of students have stated they actively 'hidden' their opinions and further 40 percent restrained their views on ethical or religious affairs. The survey - conducted by Survation on behalf of ADF International, a faith-based legal advocacy organization - discovered that 36 percent, which is more than a third of students have legal opinions which would be considered as unacceptable by their student union. Free speech campaigners linked the dynamics on some campuses to 'Moist re-education campus', which are dominated by 'woke 'orthodoxy' and only the most liberal and Left-wing views are tolerated.
On November 15th the St. Jan Kanty church in Warsaw was smeared with accusations and the lightning symbol. The symbol is known as the sing of the women's strike. The parish was target by activists connected to the women's strike group before. After attempts of breaking into the church during holy mass, the parishioners took action themselves and hired a security guard.
On the 10th of November, the Parliament of Norway has extended the hate-speech law to transgender and bisexual people, or generally "sexual orientation". People that are found guilty of hate speech could face up to one year in jail for private remarks and up to three years for public comments. This law could be conflicting with the freedom of speech for Christians, who preach the teachings of the bible.
Mary Douglas, a Christian councillor at Wiltshire, was forced to step down from her role in November 2019, as she expressed her disapproval of the use of public funds to promote the "gay pride" event, as she did not agree with this "ideology and worldview". Accused of homophobia, she had to leave her role, but after an investigation the Wiltshire Council reversed the decision. The council admitted that her removal was an infringement of her "right to freedom of expression".
The second Lockdown in France restricts people to only leave their homes for essential work or medical reasons. Schools and churches remain open but masses are not allowed to take place after the 1st of November. A group of Bishops and several other religious movements have appealed to the Council of State for the allowance of communal services of 90 minutes. This appeal was rejected on the 7th of November, but Vincent Neymon, President of the French Bishop's Conference will continue to seek an agreement.
In response to the rising number of Covid-19 infections, most European countries have started to announce a new lockdown entering into force in November. The new measures led to a continuing of the discussion about the relevance of the church and the understanding of Freedom of Religion in various countries. After the first lockdown, a number of courts were held discussing the matter of Freedom of Religion, which is reflected in the diversity of new approaches amon European states. France, Belgium, Great Britain and Ireland have banned the celebration of masses, which has stirred up criticism from the churches, demanding proof of the necessity for these measures. Austria, Germany and Spain, as other countries like Poland, did not declare a stop of religious services, arguing that religious freedom is among the essential freedoms to be protected in a liberal democratic society. In these countries the criticism mostly comes from secular societies, claiming that religion is a private issue and should not be given priority over cultural or leisure activities. In Italy the allowance of masses depends on the cities, other European countries allow services although with very strong restrictions.
In the UK, a new lockdown was declared, which closes bars, restaurants and non-essential retail businesses. Churches are also ordered to cease gatherings and worship services. Leaders from different churches signed a pre-action letter to the government to take back the ban on worship services. As the government didn't respond, they now have launched a legal challenge led by Pastor Ade Omooba MBE and with support of the Christian Legal Center.
The First Minister of Walse, Mark Drakeford announced a new lockdown from the 23rd of October to the 9th of November, which includes the closing of churches. Christian leaders have raised their voice against the regulations made by the Welsh Government. The Christian leaders argue that the regulations are severely interfering with the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and worship, which are protected under Article 9 of the Human Rights Act.
On October 22nd, the polish Constitutional Tribunal decided that eugenic abortion is unconstitutional. This led to an outrage of the left-wing feminist organization "Women's Strike". among others, which started attacking churches across Poland and interrupting church services. The activists vandalized the facades of many religious buildings by tagging them with vulgar or insulting slogans. Among the attacked churches were the St. Magda Magdalena in Warsaw and the parish church St. Jakub in Warsaw, the St. Vincent de Paul church in Otwock and other Shrines and buildings. The police is investigating.
A new Bill is being passed rapidly in the United Kingdom, which would require extensive discussion on its moral standards. The Covert Human Intelligence Bill was presented on September 2020, and has already passed the first reading in the House of Lords (19.10.2020). It's regulations for the authorization of criminal activity for public bodies, like the police, to "prevent disorder" presents a threat to freedoms of speech and religion. The line is already very thin between "hate crimes" and "hate incidents" and the new Bill could give space to a targeted surveillance and use of executive power against Christians.