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Court orders France to lift ban on religious services

France's highest administrative court has ruled that the government must lift a blanket ban on meetings at places of worship imposed as part of measures to combat the coronavirus.

After receiving complaints from several individuals and associations, the Council of State said on Monday that such a ban on freedom of worship caused “a damage that is serious and manifestly illegal”.

It told the government to lift the ban within the next eight days.

Under France's strict lockdown, places of worship were closed but when phase 1 of the lifting of lockdown began on May 11th places of worship were allowed to to reopen – but not hold services.

READ ALSO What changes in phase 1 of lifting lockdown?

 

The only gatherings permitted are funerals, which are limited to a maximum of 20 people.

But the Council of State ruled this ban was “disproportionate in nature.”

It remains to be seen what move the government will take to respect the decision while retaining a safe environment in churches, mosques and other places of worship.

Gatherings of more than 10 people in public places are still forbidden under phase 1 of the loosening of lockdown.

READ ALSO What are the rules on socialising as lockdown lifts?

Bruno Retailleau, who leads the right-wing Republicans in the upper house Senate, wrote on Twitter that the ruling was “good news for the freedom of religion” which is a fundamental right”.

One of the first coronavirus clusters in France was centred around an evangelical church event in Mulhouse, eastern France which went on to be the worst affected area in the country.

Member comments

  1. My family has belonged to the Roman Catholic Church for over 400 years. And I do NOT need to go to church to be a good Catholic. Yes, I love going to mass. And I also understand my obligations in regards to sacramemtals. But going to mass in no way influences my actions, I will always be a good Catholic and believe. I do not need to go to mass as a social function. Which for many that is what it has become. You can be a good devout Roman Catholic and NOT go to mass. Except at 1 time during the year, Easter. And every one of us missed that.

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COVID-19

‘Serious malfunctions’ at French research unit headed by Didier Raoult

A criminal investigation is set to begin into the Marseille research unit headed by controversial scientist Didier Raoult, after a report found "serious malfunctions".

'Serious malfunctions' at French research unit headed by Didier Raoult

The findings of the joint investigation into the IHU at Marseille by the Inspection générale des affaires sociales (IGAS) and the  l’Inspection générale de l’éducation, du sport et de la recherche (IGESR) prompted Health Minister François Braun and Research Minister Sylvie Retailleau to refer the unit to the city’s public prosecutor, urging it to investigate “serious malfunctions” at the institution.

Raoult was head of the unit from its foundation in 2011 until his retirement this summer.

The controversial microbiologist gained significant worldwide attention during the Covid-19 pandemic for his vociferous promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, despite a lack of evidence on its effectiveness.

READ ALSO Five minutes to understand: Whatever happened to French professor Didier Raoult?

He was succeeded as director by Pierre-Edouard Fournier.

The ministers said that a number of issues highlighted in the latest report are “likely to constitute offences or serious breaches of health or research regulations”.

Fournier, and the institute’s seven founding members – including the University of Aix-Marseille, Assistance Publique-Hospitals de Marseille, the Research Institute for Development or the army health service – will now be summoned by their supervisory bodies to “implement a proactive action plan as soon as possible” which “will condition the continuation of the activity of the IHU-MI and its funding by the State”, according to the joint communiqué of the ministers.

The IHU was already under judicial investigation for “forgery in writing”, “use of forgery in writing”, and “interventional research involving a human person not justified by his usual care without obtaining the opinion of the committee for the protection of persons and the authorisation of the Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM),” the Marseille prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

In an earlier report, the ANSM had noted “serious breaches of the regulations for research involving humans”, during some clinical trials.

READ ALSO Maverick French Covid doctor reprimanded over ‘breaches’ in clinical trials

François Crémieux, the director of Marseille public hospitals, told local newspaper La Provence on Tuesday that the establishment “shares the observation of managerial excesses of certain hospital-university managers occupying key functions within the infectious diseases division”.

“The legitimacy of the IHU has been affected. It has lost its scientific credibility. It must now be regained. 800 highly skilled professionals work there every day,” he added.

Raoult bit back at the report in a tweet, saying: “I regret that the IGAS/IGAENR mission does not take into account the detailed legal and scientific response that I have provided”.

Separately, Raoult will be in court on Friday as his defamation case against Karine Lacombe, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sorbonne University Faculty of Medicine, comes before judges.

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