The appeal: Two associations asked the Conseil d’État to allow Catholics to go to a place of worship after 7pm during Easter week.
The decision of the Conseil d’État: The urgent applications judge of the Conseil d’État has rejected the request to adjust the curfew during Easter week (28 March to 3 April).
Freedom of worship is a fundamental freedom which notably includes the right to collectively take part in a ceremony. However, in the current health context, this freedom must be balanced against the need to protect the health of the population.
Firstly, the urgent applications judge noted that the virus had been circulating at an increasingly rapid rate in continental France over recent weeks, and that the health crisis was clearly getting worse (continuous increase in the number of new cases, 90% of intensive care beds occupied). The curfew measure adopted in March in French Guiana, and then on a nationwide level in November 2020, seems to have proven its effectiveness in curbing the transmission of the virus. Therefore, in view of the current deterioration of the situation, maintaining a travel ban between 7pm and 6am is justified.
The judge also noted that, contrary to what was decided during the first lockdown, religious establishments were authorised to remain open and religious ceremonies could still be held between 6am and 7pm, in compliance with the health protocol in place.
Many parishes have adjusted their time-tables to accommodate the requirements of the curfew by increasing the number of services and moving afternoon services forward, notably during Easter week. The Bishops' Conference of France has also proposed liturgical adjustments for the Easter Vigil on April 3, taking into account the curfew restrictions.
In these circumstances, not being able to visit a place of worship during the curfew, including during Easter week, does not constitute a manifestly disproportionate interference with the freedom of worship, in view of the need to protect public health.