In Belgium, Jewish community urges protection of circumcision rights - World Jewish Congress

In Belgium, Jewish community urges protection of circumcision rights

In Belgium, Jewish community urges protection of circumcision rights

Following concerns that efforts to enact restrictions on circumcision would be advanced, Belgian MP Michael Freilich announced that he intended to submit legislation to the Belgian Federal Parliament that would protect this religious right in Belguim. The announcement came after MP Goedele Liekens of the liberal democratic OpenVLD Party confirmed that her legislation to end refunding fees for circumcisions performed in hospitals was the “first step in the right direction” before submitting legislation to confront circumcision.

Following the announcement, the WJC-affiliated Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organisation (CCOJB) called for religious rights to be protected saying: “Any attack against the possibility to practice Brit Milah, a fundamental aspect of Jewish life, is unacceptable and a violation of a fundamental right.”

CCOJB President Yohan Benizri, who is also a member of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps, added: “Too often, our community has accommodated and compromised by adopting an attitude of resignation. We know where this leads us, and we will no longer accept it, in any case when these restrictions apply to a part of our community incompatible restrictions preventing a peaceful life in our country.”

In January 2019, a ban on Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter of animals took effect in the northern Belgian region of Flanders, requiring that animals be stunned unconscious before being slaughtered; this particular process is forbidden to both Muslims and Jews in their respective practices of ritual slaughter.

In September, after similar legislation took place in the southern region of Wallonia, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog sent a letter to the president of the regional parliament of Wallonia calling the ban on shechita “an unacceptable infringement of general freedom of religion.”

Following the legislation in Flanders passage in 2017, CCOJB filed a lawsuit against the ban. In April 2019, Belgium's Constitutional Court called on the European Court of Justice to issue a judgment on the ban, which is expected to rule within the next two years. 

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder is a vocal advocate for the protection of religious liberties, including both circumcision and shechita. Following the Sweden’s Center Party decision to ban circumcision in September 2019, WJC President Lauder underscored that this practice was a “central tenet of life and ritual for Jews and Muslims alike, and must be maintained as an indelible religious right.”