Press Release on the Letter of the President of SBC to the Government, in which he Expects the Lifting of the Ban on Performing Religious Rituals
Archbishop Metropolitan Msgr Stanislav Zore, President of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference, sent a letter on December 4 to the Prime Minister, Mr Janez Janša, on behalf of all bishops and believers. In it, he expressed the expectation that the government would lift the Ordinance on the prohibition of performance of religious rites and would not disproportionately restrict religious freedom following the constitution.
In the letter, Archbishop Zore stated that the Catholic Church has been actively working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections throughout the epidemic and is following government regulations and NIJZ instructions. SBC is taking all necessary safety and health measures to eliminate the possible transmission of infections. Therefore, no infections have occurred during religious ceremonies.
By an ordinance of November 13, 2020, the government banned the gathering of people and the performance of religious rituals. The prohibition of religious rituals was determined without any justification or explanations and substantiated reasons. The latter is even more accurate given that even after that date, many activities were still possible, some of them until today. The government has also established different classes of permitted and prohibited activities. This creates an unjustifiable idea that religious freedom is not as important as some other activities.
Archbishop Zore pointed out that the ordinances mentioned above have disproportionately encroached on the constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom. Religious rituals cannot be prohibited in concept based on the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia and the government must not restrict the exercise of religious freedom. Based on the connection between Articles 41 and 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, religious freedom is one of the most protected human rights i.e. fundamental freedoms, which may not be suspended or restricted not even in a state of war or emergency. The highest level of constitutional protection guarantees religious freedom - as well as the inviolability of human life, the prohibition of torture, the protection of human personality and dignity, and constitutional procedural guarantees in criminal law.
With Decision UI-111/July 4 July 8, 2004, the Constitutional Court adopted the position that religious freedom is not only a right of an individual, but an integral part of it is a collective aspect, which is carried out mainly in the form of worship, religious rituals, common prayers, etc. Based on the teachings of the Catholic Church, the physical presence of a believer in a religious ceremony that is in the reception of the holy sacraments is crucial and irreplaceable. It is an essential part of religion, without which religious freedom is wholly prevented (or impracticable).
Given all the above, Archbishop Zore proposed to the government to lift the ban on religious rituals. He proposed taking into account clear criteria such as the size of a religious facility, the level of infection in the local environment, the number of believers, strict adherence to recommendations and safety and health measures to prevent the transmission of the infection and the assessment of the criteria of the principle of proportionality. He also proposed setting a limit on the number of believers. The German Federal Constitutional Court also ordered such action in case 1 BvQ 44/20 of April 29, 2020, the US Supreme Court in case 20A87 of November 25, 2020, and the French Constitutional Council in a decision from the beginning of December this year. Archbishop Zore also suggested to the Prime Minister that religious rituals not be mentioned in state regulations (i.e. as permitted or forbidden), as this concept belongs to the autonomy of churches and other religious communities, therefore any attempt to regulate them publicly is contrary to the principle of separation of state and church and other religious communities.
Dr Tadej Jakopič