"Stop government funding of religions" Author: Michaël Torfs

Sat 15/04/2017 - 17:14 Michaël Torfs The president of the Flemish liberals (Open VLD) Gwendolyn Rutten has proposed to stop government funding of the different religions in Belgium. Now, they benefit from tax payers' money, but Rutten estimates they should raise their own cash. But in order to change this, the Belgian Constitution would have to be adapted.

Article 181 of the Constitution about religious services states that "wages and pensions of those supplying religious services will be paid by the state."

Rutten thinks this should be abolished: "We propose a real separation between Church and State. We want to change this article, in order to have the different religions find their own cash." This is the case in a whole lot of other countries, where the cash comes from donations by individuals or organisations.

Rutten makes a comparison with Greenpeace, NGO's or other organisations. "They receive donations from different players. We think the same principle should apply to religions." Rutten's proposal comes after the recent controversy about a couple of mosques in Belgium, which allegedly "spread messages of hate". The Flemish Interior Minister Liesbeth Homans even voiced her intention to withdraw recognition from the Beringen mosque which would imply the scrapping of government funds.

"You would give away any control you have"

However, the coalition partners Christian democrats and Flemish nationalists are not giving Rutten thumbs up. Servais Verherstraeten (CD&V) says you will also lose control over the different religions if you stop the funding. "I prefer the present system, rather than religious faiths being practised in garage boxes out of sight and which may turn against society."

Bart De Wever (N-VA) prefers not to disturb "the present delicate and historically grown compromise".