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Senior legal official doubtful if AG will defend 'Muezzin Bill'
If the controversial bill that aims to ban mosques from using loudspeakers to summon the faithful to prayer passes in its expected form, which would grant an exemption for synagogues' Shabbat sirens, the official says that such a discriminatory law could not be defended before the High Court.

A senior legal official has concluded that it is doubtful that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will defend the government and the Knesset before the High Court of Justice (HCJ) if the version of the "Muezzin Bill" passes exempting the loudspeaker systems of synagogues.

 

 

The official said a law that would permit discrimination and damage the freedom of religion and worship would be unconstitutional.

 

Due to last week's controversy around the "Regulation Bill," the Ministry of Justice's opposition to MK Motti Yegev's (Bayit Yehudi) bill passed largely under the radar.

 

The bill began as one intended to deal with noise emanating from mosques, but was invalidated a few months ago by the justice system which deemed it a violation of equality and freedom of worship. In response, Yogev modified the bill so that it would forbid all houses of worship from using loudspeakers.

 

Minaret in Kafr Qasim (Photo: Gil Lerner)
Minaret in Kafr Qasim (Photo: Gil Lerner)

 

The bill passed the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs with all members supporting it, with the exception of Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, who abstained. Minister of Health Yakov Litzman filed an appeal, concerned with how the bill might affect synagogues, which regularly sound a siren on Friday before sunset to announce the beginning of Shabbat.

 

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (Photo: Gil Yohanan) (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

 

This led to the decision to add a new section to the bill that makes an exception for such sirens, which was supposed to clarify that the prohibition on loudspeakers would apply only to nighttime use. Also, the possibility of exemption would only apply to ultra-Orthodox cities and town.

 

This section has yet to be inserted into the draft, as they are still undergoing legal examination so that the law will not be struck down by the HCJ if asked to do so. After the section is inserted and Litzman lifts his appeal, the bill will be presented to the Knesset, not requiring a government debate. The bill is expected to reach the plenum on Wednesday for a preliminary reading of its new version.

 

Even after the bill is changed, the deputy attorney general, Avi Licht suggested that members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs not vote on the law, submitting that there would be no need. He clarified that there already exists a law on the books regarding noise violations, and it would be sufficient merely to enforce that law. However, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze'ev Elkin insisted that a vote take place on the law. He even personally approached Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who gave a green light to the vote in a cabinet meeting, even though one did not eventually take place there.

 

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