Belgian court overturns ban on conservative conference attended by German cardinal

Belgian court overturns ban on conservative conference attended by German cardinal Cardinal Gerhard Müller. Photo: CNS

Belgium’s highest court ruled late last night that a conference upholding conservative values in the public square could go ahead in the country’s capital after a Brussels district mayor had ordered police to shut it down yesterday.

Emir Kir issued the order to halt the National Conservatism conference that was scheduled to take place April 16–17 and that featured among its speakers the Vatican’s former doctrinal chief, Cardinal Gerhard Müller. Police surrounded the venue on Tuesday, denying access to speakers and guests.

The conference, organised by the Edmund Burke Foundation, a public affairs institute, aims to promote conservatism as “inextricably tied” to the idea of nation, national independence, and the revival of national traditions.

The event has been held in various capitals including Rome, London, and Washington, DC, since its founding in 2019.

Among other speakers at this year’s conference were Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Britain’s former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and the founder of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. The British politician called the attempted shut down “a disgrace” and accused the EU of becoming the “new form of communism”.

Mr Kir said he made the decision because the conference’s vision “is not only ethically conservative (eg, hostility to the legislation of abortion, same-sex unions, etc.) but also focused on the defence of ‘national sovereignty,’ which implies, among other things, a ‘Eurosceptic attitude’”.

His order also stated that some of the speakers “are reputed to be traditionalists” and that the conference must be banned “to avoid foreseeable attacks on public order and peace”.

Prior to Mr Kir’s attempted shutdown, political pressure had already forced the organisers to cancel two other venues shortly before the conference had begun, after which they found a third hotel venue, called Claridge, located in Mr Kir’s district.

Cardinal Müller told author Rod Dreher, who was also speaking at the conference, that the attempt to shut down the conference was “like Nazi Germany” and that the authorities were acting “like the SA” — Hitler’s brownshirts who used violence and intimidation against opponents.

The Belgian court overturned Mr Kir’s decision after the order was challenged by conference organizers with the support of ADF International, a Christian legal group that works to oppose threats to religious liberty.

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, said that while “common sense and justice” had prevailed, the attempt to shut down the conference was a “dark mark on European democracy”.