The constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice religion in public and manifest religious opinions, as long as no crime is committed in exercising that freedom. While the constitution provides for the right to assemble peacefully without prior authorization, it stipulates open-air religious or other meetings are subject to laws and police regulations. The constitution prohibits compulsory participation in or attendance at church services or observance of religious days of rest and stipulates that a civil marriage ceremony must precede a religious marriage ceremony for the state to recognize it. The constitution provides for the regulation of relations between religious groups and the state, including the role of the state in appointing and dismissing religious clergy and the publication of documents by religious groups, through conventions between the state and individual religious groups. These conventions are subject to parliamentary review.
There is no procedure to grant religious groups legal status as religious groups. Religious groups are free to operate under the form they wish, with many choosing to operate as nonprofit associations. The government has formally approved conventions with six religious groups, which it supports financially with a fixed amount (adjusted yearly for inflation) partly based on the number of adherents each group reported having in 2016. The six groups are the Roman Catholic Church; Greek, Russian, Romanian, and Serbian Orthodox Churches as one community; Anglican Church; Reformed Protestant Church of Luxembourg and Protestant Church of Luxembourg as one community; Jewish community; and Muslim community. To qualify for a convention with the state, a religious community must be a recognized world religion and establish an official and stable representative body with which the government can interact. Groups without signed conventions, such as the New Apostolic Church, operate freely but do not receive state funding. The Baha’is do not have a convention with the state, but the state advised the group in establishing a foundation that allows it to receive tax-deductible donations.
Government funding levels for the six religious groups are specified in each convention and remain the same every year except for adjustments for inflation. The original funding levels established in 2016 were: 6.75 million euros ($8.28 million) to the Catholic community; 450,000 euros ($552,000) to the Protestant community; 450,000 euros ($552,000) to the Muslim community; 315,000 euros ($387,000) to the Jewish community; 285,000 euros ($350,000) to the Orthodox community; and 125,000 euros ($153,000) to the Anglican community. Under the law, clergy of recognized religious groups hired in 2016 or earlier continue to receive their salaries from the government and are grandfathered into the government-funded pension system. The law further provides for a transitional period in which the government either does not disburse funding under the convention should the total amount of salaries be above the funding level, disburses the difference should the total amount of salaries fall below the funding level, or disburses the entire funding level should the total amount of salaries equal zero. The pensions of grandfathered clergy are not taken into consideration in calculating the total amount of salaries.
Religious groups must submit their accounts and the report of an auditor to the government for review to verify they have spent government funds in accordance with laws and regulations. Under the conventions, government funding to a religious community may be cancelled if the government determines the religious community is not upholding any of the three mutually agreed principles of respect for human rights, national law, and public order.
The law prohibits covering of the face in certain specific locations, such as government buildings and public hospitals or schools or on public transportation. The prohibition applies to all forms of face coverings, including, but not limited to, full-body veils. Violators are subject to a fine of 25 to 250 euros ($31-$310). There is no prohibition against individuals wearing face coverings on the street.
The law requires the stunning of animals before slaughter, with exceptions only for hunting and fishing. Violators are subject to a fine of 251 to 200,000 euros ($310-$245,000) and possible imprisonment for between eight days and three years. The law does not prohibit the sale or importation of halal or kosher meat. On December 17, the ECHR ruled that EU member states may impose a requirement that animals be stunned prior to slaughter and that such a requirement does not infringe on the rights of religious groups.
By law, public schools may not teach religion classes, but students are required to take an ethics course called Life and Society. The ethics course covers religion, primarily from a historical perspective.
There are laws and mechanisms in place to address property restitution, including for Holocaust victims. These laws do not apply to noncitizens who resided in the country between 1930 and 1945.
Under the penal code, antireligious and anti-Semitic statements are punishable by imprisonment for eight days to six months, a fine of 251 to 25,000 euros ($310-$30,700), or both.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In February, the Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court, upheld the appointment of an external administrator to organize the next elections of the Protestant Consistory’s chairing committee. The consistory is the leading institution for Protestant religious affairs and the community’s official interlocutor with the government. In August, the Protestant Consistory applied to the ECHR to overturn the Court of Cassation ruling. In the application, the Protestant Consistory also requested the ECHR overturn another 2019 ruling allowing the appointment of a general administrator to organize two extraordinary general assemblies of the consistory. According to the consistory’s attorney, Luc Schaack, the court’s decision to uphold the appointment of an external administrator to organize the next elections of the consistory’s chairing committee infringed on the group’s members’ right to act in accordance with their own rules and interests as defined by Article 9 (freedom of thought, belief, and religion) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Court of Cassation’s rulings stemmed from court challenges and appeals made between 2017 and 2019, based on internal consistory disagreements over its statutes, leadership, and the chairing committee’s management of consistory property and finances.
A separate case involving a woman who sued the Protestant Consistory in 2015 for revoking her right to vote in chairing committee elections continued in the Appeals Court, the country’s second-highest court at year’s end. The consistory acted after discovering the woman was Catholic. In 2017, the district court ruled the consistory had wrongfully revoked her voting rights.
In August, Volker Strauss, the pastor of the Protestant Trinity Church, who was also the Church President of the Protestant community in the country (appointed by the Protestant Consistory) and a member of the chairing committee of the Protestant Consistory, again criticized the courts’ rulings in all three cases as infringing on the Protestant community’s religious freedom. Strauss said that the judges should have dismissed the cases because they pertained to internal church matters.
The review of the agreement by the Constitutional Court also halted a separate December 2018 appeal filed jointly by the Syndicate of Church Councils, an association representing the interests of 270 of the 285 local Catholic church councils, and 109 local church councils that was pending before the Appeals Court. The appeal challenged the 2018 decision of the district court to dismiss a 2016 lawsuit by the syndicate and 109 church councils seeking to invalidate the agreement between the government and the archdiocese on disposition of Catholic Church property managed by the local level church councils. A separate 2018 lawsuit in the district court by 47 church councils – part of the 109 that filed an appeal with the Appeals Court – seeking damages resulting from the agreement remained pending at year’s end. The dissolution of the 109 church councils and the syndicate pursuant to the agreement between the government and the archdiocese remained in abeyance, pending resolution of their cases.
In October, the Prosecutor’s Office upheld its decision in April to dismiss a complaint by RIAL President Bernard Gottlieb regarding a 2019 Facebook posting accusing Gottlieb of “working [for] a foreign power” and of “taking his orders from a killing country.” Gottlieb called the prosecutor’s dismissal “frustrating.”
Absent a procedure for recognizing their legal status as religious organizations, several religious groups continued to operate as nonprofit associations. The New Apostolic Church stated it had requested that the government create a formal recognition procedure.
Contrary to previous years, police did not provide data on apprehensions for violating the law banning facial coverings in certain public places. On September 22, Roy Reding, a Member of Parliament for the conservative Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), asked Minister of Justice Sam Tanson whether the obligation to wear a mask contradicted the law prohibiting face coverings. On October 20, the Minister replied that the law foresaw an exception in cases of medical crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between March 18 and December 31, the government set restrictions on indoor and outdoor public gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The government banned all public gatherings from March 18 to May 11, with exceptions for members of the same household. After May 11, the government authorized outdoor gatherings of up to 20 persons. On May 17, speaking at a Pontifical Mass on the final Sunday after Easter in the Church’s liturgical calendar that was live-streamed on social media, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich criticized the government for failing to lift the prohibition on in-person religious services. Hollerich stated that on May 6, the Catholic Church had submitted a proposal to the government on how to safely reopen churches to the public but that the government had failed to respond. According to Hollerich, the government’s silence was not “intentional” but showed that it “did not care at all about” church goers. He acknowledged that religious freedom needed to be balanced against public-health requirements in a pandemic but said it remained a human right nonetheless. After May 29, the government authorized public gatherings indoors of more than 20 persons on condition that participants be seated and wear a mask or keep a two-meter (6.6-foot) distance between individuals.
Between November 26 and December 15, the government closed most cultural venues but made exceptions for some, as well as houses of worship, which could remain open under strict health and safety measures. According to a representative of the New Apostolic Church, the Catholic Church had reached out to the government to include houses of worship. During a November 23 press conference, Prime Minister and Minister for Religious Affairs Xavier Bettel stated he would consider it “a good decision” if religious groups were to move their services online during that period to reduce infection risk but “religious freedom is a freedom” and “religious groups are free to decide” whether or not to hold in-person religious services.
During the ban on in-person religious services, other religious leaders, including Jewish Consistory President Albert Aflalo and Rabbi Alexander Grodensky for the Jewish community, Pastor Strauss for the Protestant community, and Jutta Bayani for the Baha’i community, said they did not consider the government’s prohibition to be discriminatory.
The Jewish Consistory and members of the Muslim community said they remained concerned that the law requiring the stunning of animals prior to their slaughter infringed on their religious rights. They said they continued to import meat, since there were no halal or kosher slaughterhouses in the country.
The Ministry of Education continued to excuse children wishing to attend religious celebrations from school, provided their legal guardian notified the school in advance and the absence was for a major religious holiday (i.e., not recurring normal weekly prayer services). Due to COVID-19 concerns, however, many of those religious celebrations were canceled.
The Jewish Consistory said the government made progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including claims by foreign citizens, and an agreement resolving the issue was possible in the near future. According to the Jewish community, most Holocaust-related real property claims by citizens had been settled but claims by nonnationals remained unresolved. In February 2019, the government created a working group on outstanding Holocaust asset issues to resolve questions about compensation for destroyed property owned by Holocaust victims and survivors who were either citizens of a foreign country or stateless between 1930 and 1945. The working group was also examining open questions about bank accounts and insurance contracts of Holocaust victims and survivors, both nationals and nonnationals, involving banks and insurance companies based in the country. Members of the working group included representatives of the government, the local Jewish community, and the World Jewish Restitution Organization.
Replying to an October 29 parliamentary question from the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Dan Biancalana, Prime Minister Bettel stated on November 27 that the concerned ministerial departments and, “in a near future, the Jewish community and the Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust” would be involved in the drafting process for the national action plan to combat anti-Semitism and that the process ran in parallel with the anti-Semitism work of the European Union. Bettel added that the government would present its national anti-Semitism plan in the first quarter of 2021 and that it would emphasize regular coordination among different government ministries and with the Jewish community. Key measures would include a focus on education, especially Holocaust education, and improved data-recording and collection of anti-Semitic acts.
According to a representative of the Ministry of State in charge of religious affairs, of the six religious groups with conventions with the government, only the Muslim community (485,000 euros – $595,000) and Anglican community (135,000 euros – $166,000) received their full funding levels during the year; the Jewish community was projected to receive only 20,000 euros ($24,500), while the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox communities received no funding from the conventions, since their direct government payments for clergy salaries superseded the allotted amount, as provided under law.
The government again provided 615,000 euros ($755,000) to the Luxembourg School of Religion and Society (LSRS) to promote, among other objectives, research, education, and collaboration with religious groups that have signed agreements with the state. The government agreed to provide the funding annually to the LSRS between 2018 and 2021 as part of an agreement with the Catholic Church’s major seminary.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government granted refugee status to 736 persons during the year, the majority of whom were Muslim. The Organization for Welcome and Integration, an entity of the Ministry of Family and Integration, stated the government provided Muslim refugees access to mosques, halal meals, and, for those who requested it, same-sex housing.