Belgian court overturns order that shut down ‘ethically conservative’ conference

According to ADF International, the Conseil d’État — the highest court in Belgium relating to the issues of public administration — has ruled that a National Conservatism conference in Brussels, which had been shut down by police, could resume.

The conference, which was scheduled for April 16-17, had been ordered to stop by the mayor of the Saint-Josse-ten-Noodle district in Brussels, citing reasons that included the group’s “hostility to the legalisation of abortion…”

After the conference was closed down, a legal challenge was mounted against the Brussels authorities for ordering police to shutter the “peaceful conference because it platformed views that were ‘ethically conservative.'” The challenge was filed by Belgian attorney Wouter Vaassen, a member of ADF International’s network of attorneys.

“We are greatly relieved that the Administrative Court rightfully has decided to block the unjust attempt to shut down the National Conservatism Conference. But this should never have happened, especially in Brussels — the political heart of Europe,” he said.

READ: Belgium looks to ease penalties for breaking the law when euthanizing patients

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, said in a press release, “Open dialogue is supposed to be at the core of European politics; yet here in the capital of the EU, a thoughtful exchange on policy has been shut down by unilateral decree. This is a watershed moment where the true censorship crisis in Europe is on full public display.

“The crushing of political opinions opposed by those in power is something that should be relegated to the darker chapters of European history.”

The court ruled that “Article 26 of the Constitution [of Belgium] grants everyone the right to assemble peacefully,” without “serious disturbance of the public peace or other unforeseen events.” The Court stated that in this instance, “the threat to public order seems to be derived purely from the reactions that its organization might provoke among opponents.”

The decision to allow the conference to go on is being called a “victory for free speech.”

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