Alliance Defending Freedom International Prevails At Brussels in NATCON Free Speech Battle


Alliance Defending Freedom International, the global arm of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), scored a massive victory for free speech in the heart of Europe, successfully challenging and reversing the Belgian authorities’ viewpoint-based attempt to shut down a conservative conference in Brussels.

What is Alliance Defending Freedom?

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.

Alliance Defending Freedom International advances the mission of Alliance Defending Freedom internationally by safeguarding religious liberties and upholding the intrinsic dignity of individuals across the globe through its extensive network of associated legal advocates.

On Apr 16, the mayor of Brussels’ Saint-Josse-ten-Noode district, Emir Kir, ordered police to shut down the National Conservatism (NatCon) conference partway through its first day. The conference included notable names, including “Brexit” leader Nigel Farage, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, former Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and French politician Éric Zemmour, according to the Epoch Times.

Authorities surrounded the venue, blocking speakers and attendees from entering while citing the event’s “ethically conservative” pro-life and pro-traditional marriage stances, deemed as “Eurosceptic” by the mayor, as justification for the crackdown.

ADF International’s Jean-Paul Van De Walle told the Epoch Times that he was initially there as an attendee but was brought in to help after news of the impending cancelation began to break.

Alliance Defending Freedom International sprang into action to mount an emergency legal challenge against this blatant violation of free speech rights. Belgian lawyer Wouter Vaassen from Alliance Defending Freedom’s legal network raced to file parallel cases in both civil and administrative courts, arguing the mayor acted far outside his authority in suppressing the peaceful conference.

The legal team was operating under extreme time constraints, having just hours to craft compelling arguments that could clear the very high legal bars required to succeed.”From the beginning, the chances were slim,” Van De Walle told the Epoch Times.

Although the initial civil case failed, the team, including executive director of ADF International Paul Coleman, worked against the clock through the night, preparing arguments for an emergency administrative hearing in the early hours of Apr 17.

Their tenacious advocacy paid off when the Council of State court ruled that the conference could proceed.

Anna Wellisz, an organizer of the event, told the Epoch Times, “I think we had a miracle.”

The court’s decision, hailed as a win for free speech rights, determined that “Article 26 of the Constitution [of Belgium] grants everyone the right to assemble peacefully,” adding that “the threat to public order seems to be derived purely from the reactions that its organization might provoke among opponents”.

Coleman said that by allowing the National Conservatism Conference to continue, the Administrative Court had come down on the side of basic human rights. “While common sense and justice have prevailed, what happened yesterday is a dark mark on European democracy. No official should have the power to shut down free and peaceful assembly merely because he disagrees with what is being said. How can Brussels claim to be the heart of Europe if its officials only allow one side of the European conversation to be heard?” Coleman asked.

“The kind of authoritarian censorship we have just witnessed belongs in the worst chapters of Europe’s history. Thankfully, the Court has acted swiftly to prevent the repression of our fundamental freedoms to both assembly and speech, thus protecting these essential characteristics of democracy for another day,” he added.

Wouter Vaassen expressed relief that the Administrative Court rightfully decided to block the unjust attempt to shut down the National Conservatism Conference but said that “this should never have happened, especially in Brussels—the political heart of Europe.”

“The free and peaceful exchange of ideas, and the basic freedom of assembly, are hallmarks of a democratic Europe. That a legal challenge of this kind needed to be mounted simply to be able to gather as a peaceful conference is a disgrace. We must diligently protect our fundamental freedoms lest censorship become the norm in our supposedly free societies,” Wouter Vaassen said.

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Written by Eric

37-year-old who enjoys ferret racing, binge-watching boxed sets and praying. He is exciting and entertaining, but can also be very boring and a bit grumpy.