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 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.
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.
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.
On October 17th, counter-demonstrators interrupted the March for Life in Vienna by blocking streets, which led to serval changes of the originally planned route. The counter-demonstrators also verbally and physically insulted the participants of the march with vulgar expressions and gestures. They also held up highly insulting banners like:"If Mary would have aborted, we would have been spared of you." Additionally, the counter-demonstrators held up flags against homophobia, stereotyping Christians as homophobic, despite the fact that the march was not about LGBTQ+ issues but the protection of the unborn life.
In the city of Zürich, the March for Life was opposed by extreme left activists, as it also occurred in Austria and Germany, which led the local government to ban the march. The march has already been banned in 2019 and also for 2020 and 2021 with no consistent reason. The official reason for the ban are safety concerns for the participants of the march, due to violent counter-protests and possible riots. As an alternative to the march, there would have been a smaller gathering of the pro-life supporters, but the Congress Center Winterthur, where the event would have taken place in a smaller form, has denied access. The organizers of the march announced that they will pursue legal action against this decision.
Pro-life activists of “Schreeuw om Leven”, who offer help to women in front of an abortion clinic in Utrecht, were required to stay in a buffer zone at a distance from the clinic. The Veiligheidsregio (Security Region) Utrecht referred public health and traffic safety as the reasons for the change in regulations, which was communicated on September 24th. As a consequence, the pro-life activists were severely restricted in offering support to visitors of the clinic.
Street preacher Henning Heinrich Westrup reported that attacks against him increased in July. He calls on people to repent and follow Jesus Christ in the pedestrian zones in Bielefeld, Dortmund and Gütersloh, among others. He reported that attacks against him by people who reject his message have increased. He said he experienced insults, vulgarities, and threats -- along with an assault in July.
On May 10th, municipal police fined the rector of Lloret for saying Mass with about thirty people inside the church. The priest, Martirià Brugada, however, defended his actions and, in fact, finished the Mass with the parishioners outside the church and the windows open.
A seniors group of Christians from recognised religious communities such as the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church and the Free Churches in Austria (FKÖ) is no longer allowed to use the tax-financed community centre after several years of use. In an e-mail from ISD (Innsbrucker Soziale Dienste), the Christian seniors group was informed that "prayers, devotions, hymns of praise, Bible readings or the like" are no longer permitted in the ISD Community Centre in Wilten with immediate effect. Representatives of political parties and Tyrollean citizens are protesting against this decision accusing of violating religious freedom.
A bus filled with Catholics bound for Pontmain was prevented from leaving the diocesan house in Caen by approximately twenty masked people in black holding a banner and shooting paintball pellets at the windshield. A spokesman for the diocese explained that the protestors likely confused the pilgrimage bus for one bound for Paris for a Manif pour Tous demonstration. This was the second time in a few months that a pilgrimage bus was attacked after being mistaken for a Manif pour Tous bus.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution which calls "for an end to violations against the freedom of Christians and other religious minorities to worship."
A High Court judge ruled in favor of an exclusion zone around a school in Birmingham permanent, preventing parents from protesting outside the grounds against the "No Outsiders" primary school programme that teaches about LGBT relationships. Many parents and activists claim the programme contradicts their faith and is not "age appropriate." A temporary exclusion zone was first imposed by the courts in the summer after months of protests outside Anderton Park Primary School by mostly Muslim parents. Birmingham City Council claimed that the order was sought from the courts over safety concerns.
Victory in international court bolsters protections for Christians who face life-threatening persecution in home countries.
The approved rally "March for Life" in Zurich on the afternoon of September 14th was disrupted by an unauthorized counter-demonstration. More than a thousand peaceful participants in the March for Life gathered on the Turbinenplatz to begin the march on an approved route in the city. At the same time, several hundred people -- called by some press reports a Red-Green alliance -- some with prams containing objects to be thrown (including stones and bottles), convened on the Josefswiese to start an unauthorized counter-demonstration parade. As they attempted to stop the counter-demo and prevent a clash with the March for Life, police were attacked with objects, including bottles and stones. Dumpsters were set on fire, a police vehicle was demolished, and firefighters were hindered by the protesters. In response, the police used a water cannon, rubber bullets, and tear gas to deter the protesters. Due to the violence, the police stopped the March for Life temporarily and ultimately shortened the route to prevent an encounter with the counter-demonstrators, some of whom were masked.
Scottish local councils ask for more power to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics where they see fit without having to appeal to the UK government for permission. This call follows "intimidating" anti-abortion protests outside Glasgow, Larbert and Edinburgh clinics. However, buffer zones such as those would restrict anyone from certain actions such as praying, calmly talking to women about abortion and make them a criminal offense.