eurel     Sociological and legal data on religions in Europe and beyond
You are here : Home » Belgium » Current issues and debates » Archives

Archives

2021

March 2021 : The religious fact before the Belgian justice
See the article by Stéphanie Wattier, "Le fait religieux devant la justice belge", ORELA, 9 March (...)

  • March 2021 : The religious fact before the Belgian justice

See the article by Stéphanie Wattier, "Le fait religieux devant la justice belge", ORELA, 9 March 2021.

D 17 March 2021   

2020

May 2020: The Belgian ban on religious activities related to Covid-19
See the article by L.-L. Christians and A. Overbeeke, « L’interdiction belge des activités religieuses dans le cadre de la (...)

  • May 2020: The Belgian ban on religious activities related to Covid-19

See the article by L.-L. Christians and A. Overbeeke, « L’interdiction belge des activités religieuses dans le cadre de la crise sanitaire du Covid-19 », Commentaires de la Chaire de droit des religions, 2020/3.

D 26 May 2020   

2017

May 2017: Ritual animal slaughter in Belgian law: recent developments
Whether during a religious feast or otherwise, the ritual slaughter methods prescribed by Muslim and Jewish rites regularly (...)

  • May 2017: Ritual animal slaughter in Belgian law: recent developments

Whether during a religious feast or otherwise, the ritual slaughter methods prescribed by Muslim and Jewish rites regularly spark heated controversy. Specifically, these religions prohibit stunning the animals in advance to ensure that the death occurs as a result of the actual slaughter and not the stunning — and thus have leading animal rights advocates up in arms against the ritual, considered contrary to animal welfare in that it causes them unnecessary pain and suffering. Conversely, Muslim and Jewish followers practising ritual slaughter without stunning are indignant against those who advocate for an across-the-board obligation to stun animals, which they see as a direct attack on the exercise of their religious freedoms. They are quick to emphasise their concern for animal welfare, which they believe ritual slaughter without stunning would also satisfy.

Beyond the technical matters relating to veterinary medicine, and the theological controversies on the subject, let us recall that European law – and, by transcription, Belgian law – provides for an exception, precisely for religious reasons, to the obligation of stunning. As the conditions governing ritual slaughter were recently reinforced by Council Regulation EU 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing (O.J.E.U., L.303.1, 18 November 2009, p. 1), some concluded that it was no longer tenable to engage in slaughter without stunning in a temporary establishment, as had previously been arranged annually, in connection with the Eid-el-Kebir feast in order to satisfy the increased demand.

Until recently, under Belgian law, matters of animal welfare were still the exclusive preserve of the federal government. It was on the occasion of the sixth State reform in 2014 that they were entrusted to the country’s three regions - the Walloon, Brussels-Capital and the Flemish. Since then, the list of powers granted to the regions, as set out in Article 6 § 1 of the Special Law on Institutional Reforms of 8 August 1980, has been supplemented by an eleventh subject (XI): “animal welfare”. More specifically, with this addition, “the power to establish and monitor animal welfare standards” was transferred to the three regions (Doc. parl., Senate, Ord. Sess. 2013-2014, No. 5-2232/1, Art. 24, p. 153).

Since this transfer of powers, the way in which ritual slaughter is approached may thus differ from one region to another in Belgium.

In 2015, the government of the Walloon region and the government of the Flemish region adopted an order prohibiting ritual slaughter without prior stunning at the temporary slaughterhouses set up for religious holidays.

In the Dutch-speaking regions, the stated desire to prohibit ritual slaughter is not limited to temporary slaughterhouses. In 2014 and 2015, two draft decrees were submitted with a view to making the obligation to stun absolute and thereby abolishing the exception established for ritual slaughter. In a ruling handed down on 29 June 2016 on these two decree initiatives, the Council of State ruled that a complete ban on slaughter without stunning would disproportionately infringe on the religious freedom of the believers concerned (Parl. Doc., Flemish Parliament, 2014-2015, no. 111/2, Parl. Doc., Flemish Parliament, 2014-2015, no. 351/2). Following, in this respect, the position already held in another opinion issued in 2005 on a similar proposal (Parl. Doc., Senate, 2005-2006, no. 3-808/6), the Legislation Division of the High Administrative Court based its decision on the fact that ‘this decision would make it too difficult for a number of believers to buy and consume meat deemed in accordance with their religious precepts’ (Legislation Division of the Council of State, opinion no. 59.484/3 and 59.485/3, op. cit., para. 14). It should be pointed out that, contrasting with this position, several European countries – including some EU Member States – have made stunning compulsory, furthermore deeming it compatible with respect for religious freedom (see the report issued by the Dialrel project – Encouraging Dialogue on issues of Religious Slaughter, 2010).

Since then, on both the Walloon and Flemish ends, the legislator’s intent to disregard the opinion of the Council of State and to impose, as of 2019, stunning for ritual slaughter using specific techniques supposed to make this stunning compatible with the requirements of the denominations concerned, has been confirmed.

With regard to the situation in the Brussels region, in contrast to her Flemish and Walloon counterparts, the Minister responsible for matters of animal welfare did not decide to ban slaughter without stunning. In 2015, she submitted a preliminary draft decree suggesting the institution of “thorough training” for those performing the sacrifice “in order to reduce the animals’ stress and suffering”. The order was ultimately adopted on 9 February 2017 and now provides that a “‘certificate of competence’ shall be earned further to completion of training on slaughter and killing and the passing of an independent examination [...]. This training shall be provided by an animal welfare officer and/or another person with demonstrable expertise in the field of animal welfare during slaughter and killing and/or by a training institute, on the basis of a course approved by the Institute”.

Whatever the approach chosen, the question as to the regulation of ritual slaughter remains, as a backdrop, that of a “balance” that needs to be struck between the freedom of religious practice – and the rites this entails – and the protection of animal welfare. In attempting to answer this delicate question, it is probably important to bear in mind the wording of Article 9, Paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides that “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. It could thus be argued that sparing animals any suffering is part of the protection of public health and order. In this respect, from a legal standpoint, it is thus essentially on the basis of proportionality that this question could be resolved, for example if the European Court of Human Rights were to be called upon to consider it.

It remains that the tensions between animal welfare and the practice of ritual slaughter also raise a host of political, philosophical and psychological questions, the responses to which will likely emerge only through a combination of field studies and platforms for discussion between State authorities and religious groups in order to find common ground conducive to living in harmony.

Source:
- L. VANBELLIGEN, "Souffrances des animaux et des hommes", Ojurel, 9 juillet 2016.
- S. WATTIER, "Animaux", in Dictionnaire de la sixième réforme de l’Etat, M. UYTTENDAELE et M. VERDUSSEN (dir.), Bruxelles, Larcier, 2015, p. 41-45.
- Rapport du projet de recherche ‘DIALREL’ : S. Ferrari, R. Bottoni, "Report on the legislation regarding religious slaughter in the EU, candidate and associated countries", Dialrel – Encouraging Dialogue on issues of Religious Slaughter, février 2010.
- E. VERMEERSCH, "Volgens de Koran is God barmhartig (dus ook voor dieren)", De Standaard, 6 juillet 2016.
- Arrêté du gouvernement de la région de Bruxelles-Capitale du 9 février 2017 relatif à la protection des animaux pendant l’abattage et la mise à mort, M.B., 24 février 2017.

D 24 May 2017    ALéopold Vanbellingen AStéphanie Wattier

2016

March 2016: Sexual abuse in the Church, annual report of the Interdiocesan Commission
Multiple sex abuse scandals within the Church came to light in 2010. At the time, a report containing (...)

  • March 2016: Sexual abuse in the Church, annual report of the Interdiocesan Commission

Multiple sex abuse scandals within the Church came to light in 2010. At the time, a report containing hundreds of testimonials from people who had been victims of sexual abuse was published by the Commission for the Handling of Complaints of Sexual Abuse in Pastoral Relations. Most of the events had taken place in the 1960s-1970s and had tragic consequences. The report revealed, among other things, that at least thirteen victims had committed suicide. Following these scandals, in January 2012 the Church of Belgium published a brochure entitled "A Hidden Suffering. For a comprehensive approach to sexual abuse in the Church”, intended to help victims of sexual abuse. In this brochure, the Church asked the victims to make themselves known, so that redress measures could be found concerning the facts stipulated. Victims were thus offered two options: (1) they could submit an application to the Parliamentary Committee for the Handling of Sexual Abuse and Paedophilia in Relationships of Authority in particular within the Church (until 31 October 2012) so that arbitration could be organised, or (2) make contact with one of the "local contact points" created by dioceses and religious congregations. It should also be noted that on 14 December 2012, the Belgian legislator adopted a law aimed at improving “the approach to sexual abuse and paedophilia in a relationship of authority” (Moniteur belge, 22 April 2013), which in particular amended certain articles of the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Investigation.
On 1 July 2012, the Interdiocesan Commission for the Protection of Children and Young People was set up in Belgium. Since its creation in 2012, the Interdiocesan Commission for the Protection of Children has issued an annual report on the Church’s points of contact for sexual abuse of minors in a pastoral relationship.
On Monday, 22 February 2016, the Interdiocesan Commission issued its annual report (2014-2015), in which it was revealed that the establishment of contact points in the dioceses enabled 418 applications to be filed between 2012 and 2015 (286 files in 2012; 37 in 2013 and 95 in 2014-2015). 628 cases were furthermore submitted to the Arbitration Centre since its creation.
The report provides a range of information on the age and gender of victims and perpetrators, as well as the time and place of the events. A classification of the events and corresponding financial compensation are also included in the report.
Lastly, the report states that “in total for the years 2012-2015, on the order of the contact points and via Dignity, the sum of €1,218,201 was paid to the victims (€538,500 in 2012, €475,101 in 2013 and €204,600 in 2014-15). In addition, €2,693,751 were also paid by order of the Arbitration Centre. This brings the total financial compensation paid to €3,911,952)”. (Full report available online, p. 10).

For more information, see also the legal literature:
- CHRISTIANS L.-L., "L’expérience de dispositifs canoniques spécifiques face aux cas de délits sexuels du clergé", in Vingt-cinq ans après le Code. Le droit canon en Belgique (sous la dir. de J.-P. SCHOUPPE), Bruxelles, Bruyant, 2008, pp. 239-257.
- MARTENS K., “Over seksueel misbruik door clerici, strafrecht en kerkelijk recht”, Recht, Religie & Samenleving, 2010, pp. 55-70.
- MONTERO E., "Le Centre d’arbitrage en matière d’abus sexuels: une solution inespérée pour les victimes de faits prescrits", Recht, Religie & Samenleving, 2013, pp. 35-71.

D 16 April 2016   

2015

Teaching/religious education: short commentary on Constitutional Court decision no. 34/2015 of 12 March 2015
Recently, the Constitutional Court was called upon to declare its stance on a (...)

  • Teaching/religious education: short commentary on Constitutional Court decision no. 34/2015 of 12 March 2015

Recently, the Constitutional Court was called upon to declare its stance on a preliminary question raised by the section for administrative disputes of the Council of State. Proceedings for annulment had been filed with the Council of State in respect of a decision made by a Brussels school which had refused to exempt a secondary school pupil from following lessons in religion and ethics. The issue was to establish whether “in so much as they did not imply a right for parents to be granted an exemption for their children from attending lessons in one of the recognised religions or in non-denominational ethics upon simple request requiring no other reasons to be given” (Constitutional Court, no. 34/2015 of 12 March 2015, preliminary question and procedure), Article 8 of the Law on the School Pact and Article 5 of the Decree of 31 March 1994 defining the neutrality of teaching in the French Community, were in conformity with Articles 10, 11 and 24 § 4 of the Constitution, possibly read in conjunction with Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, with Article 2 of the first additional protocol and with Article 18 § 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In its decision no. 34/2015 delivered on 12 March 2015, the Constitutional Court indicates that “the decree framework, such as it exists in the French Community, does not guarantee that lessons in religion and non-denominational ethics open to parental choice, as governed by the relevant provisions, disseminate information or knowledge that is at the same time ‘objective, critical and pluralistic’ in accordance with the above case law of the European Court of Human Rights” (B.6.5). According to the Constitutional Court, case law from the ECHR in Strasbourg indicates that “in order to ensure the right of parents that their children are not confronted with conflicts between religious or moral education provided by the school and the religious or ethical convictions of the parents, pupils must be able to be exempted from attending lessons in religion or ethics” (B.7.1.). Without considering it “necessary to concretely examine the contents of the course of non-denominational ethics” (B.6.1.) attended by the applicant, the Court came to the decision that the course in non-denominational ethics is a “non-objective” course (according to Christians and Berhoumi).

In other words, the Constitutional Court considers that the enrolment of a child in lessons of non-denominational ethics or religion implies, in both cases, a non-neutral choice. In order to conform to European Court of Human Rights case law, the Constitutional Court therefore considers that the French Community should be able to offer children the possibility of being exempted from courses in religion or ethics.

Decision no. 34/2015 means that reorganising lessons in religion and non-denominational ethics should figure among the priorities of the French Community. One means to conform with the judgment of the Constitutional Court could be to create a cross-curricular course on “citizenship”, which would be made compulsory for all pupils.

Some bibliographic highlights:
- CHRISTIANS, L.-L. et EL BERHOUMI, M., « De la neutralité perdue à l’exemption du cours de morale. Commentaire de l’arrêt 34/2015 de la Cour constitutionnelle », J.T., 2015, p. 441.
- DELGRANGE, X., « Le sort du cours de morale : activisme juridictionnel contre attentisme politique », note sous C. Const., 12 mars 2015, A.P.T., 2015, p. 253-266.
- OVERBEEKE, A., « De keuze voor levensbeschouwelijk onderricht in officiële scholen in de Franse Gemeenschap beoordeeld door het Grondwettelijk Hof », TORB, 2014-15, n° 4-5, p. 18-27.
- SCHREIBER J.-P., « Belgique : le cours de morale non-confessionnelle est-il neutre ?», 9 décembre 2015, site internet O-re-la.

D 10 April 2015    AStéphanie Wattier

2014

August 2014
Ever since its beginnings, Belgian public broadcasting has dedicated around fifty hours a year to programmes made by recognised faith communities, including the secular movement. (...)

  • August 2014

Ever since its beginnings, Belgian public broadcasting has dedicated around fifty hours a year to programmes made by recognised faith communities, including the secular movement. During summer 2014, the Belgian press revealed that an internal conflict within Belgian secularity had led to a disavowal of the producers recognised since 1955. Responding to a request made by the Centre d’Action Laïque (CAL), the representative body at federal level, the relevant minister decided that the CAL would henceforth take charge of the programme. The ousted producer, who was from one of the founding associations of the secular movement, claimed not to have been subject to fair removal proceedings and to be unaware of the underlying reasons. In addition, this association considered itself to be the legitimate representative of secularity as regards the media. What is sure is that Belgian law has not been entirely clear, ever since its regionalisation, about how communities of belief are represented in cultural matters. Is this representation necessarily linked to the recognised body at federal level or does it provide a degree of autonomy for local community authorities? The press is indicating that the case will be referred to both the Council of State and the “arbitration tribunal” of secularity.

See La Libre Belgique of 7 July 2014.

D 12 September 2014    ALouis-Léon Christians

2012

1 June 2012 : Veil and ID card photography
New general instructions for identity cards were distributed by Ministry of the Interior (SPF) on 1 June 2012. Under the heading “Photographs with (...)

  • 1 June 2012 : Veil and ID card photography

New general instructions for identity cards were distributed by Ministry of the Interior (SPF) on 1 June 2012. Under the heading “Photographs with headdress”, it reads: “For an undeniable religious or medical reason, a photograph where the head is covered may be accepted, provided that the face is fully visible, namely: the forehead, cheeks, eyes, nose and chin must be fully uncovered. It is advisable, but not compulsory, for hair and ears also to be clearly visible. This solution cannot be accepted without there being serious justification for doing so on the part of the citizen concerned.

Problems occasionally arise regarding photographs where the person is wearing a veil. It must be understood that the photograph must identify a person and that the face may not be partially hidden. If bona fide religious or medical reasons dictate, a photograph with a veil may be accepted, provided that the key elements of the face are visible, as specified in the preceding paragraph.”

Read the commentary by Louis-Léon Christians on the site of the Chair of Religious Law of the Catholic University of Leuven.

D 20 September 2012   

2008

8 July 2008 : A new analysis of Catholic practice in Belgium
A study conducted by the Centre of Political Science at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Leuven Catholic University) for the (...)

  • 8 July 2008 : A new analysis of Catholic practice in Belgium

A study conducted by the Centre of Political Science at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Leuven Catholic University) for the Belgian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has reported on the religious practice of Catholics in Belgium.
It estimates that around 7% are regular churchgoers (attending Sunday Mass), that approximately 28% of all civil marriages are Catholic and that the proportion of children baptised is between 57% and 60%. Furthermore, the researchers put at 208,000 the number of volunteers serving the Catholic Church in Belgium, equivalent to 2%-2.5% of the national population.

For further information, see the report by the Cathobel Agency.

D 30 July 2008   

2007

5 November 2007 : Recognition of 43 mosques
The King signed the decree recognising imams officiating in the 43 mosques recognised by the Walloon Region. 50 are to receive a salary paid for by (...)

  • 5 November 2007 : Recognition of 43 mosques

The King signed the decree recognising imams officiating in the 43 mosques recognised by the Walloon Region. 50 are to receive a salary paid for by the state, as do Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican priests, lay councillors, Protestant pastors and rabbis. The number of state-funded imams depends on the numbers congregating at each of the recognised mosques: most Muslim places of worship concerned (37 out of 43) will be pleased to be receiving public funding for one imam, five more will be entitled to two imams and one mosque will be endowed with three imams.

D 20 November 2007   

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

Follow us:
© 2002-2022 eurel - Contact