Human Rights in Belgium

Belgium Flag - CIA Fact Book
Short Background (Extracted from CIA Factbook)
Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. The country prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. Tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy.

Government type: federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy

Ethnic groups: Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11% Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)

Belgium Map - CIA Fact Book Religions:
Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25% Population

10,438,353 (July 2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82

Extracted from USDOS Religious Freedom Report 2010
The government accords "recognized" status to Catholicism, Protestantism (including evangelicals and Pentecostals), Judaism, Anglicanism (separately from other Protestant groups), Islam, and Orthodox (Greek and Russian) Christianity. Representative bodies for these religious groups receive subsidies from the federal, regional, and local governments. The government also supports the freedom to participate in secular organizations. These secular humanist groups serve as a seventh recognized philosophical community, and their organizing body, the Central Council of Non-Religious Philosophical Communities of Belgium, receives funds and benefits similar to those accorded other recognized religious groups.

Comparing Belgium to Iran

Belgium and Iran are both multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-racial States. Iran is a theocracy while Belgium has enjoyed a stable democratic government for decades. But they face very similar challenges because of their ethno-religious makeup. Iran's 1906 constitution was primarily modeled from the Belgian Constitution. However, the articles on religious freedom were removed. Thereby giving Shia clerics enormous power. The Pahlavi monarchs always had to share power with the clerics. On the other hand, the Belgian Catholic Church has had limited or no presence in politics.

The Belgium case is worth a look for a couple of reasons. First, unlike other EU member countries, Belgium, doesn't recognize Bahá'ísm, Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Mormonism, the Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology. These groups are free to practice their religion but receive no funding from the government. In addition, the Belgian government monitors their activity. Second, like Iran, it has declared some beliefs as "False Religions". Thus, it will not pay the salary of false prophets. As a result, some of the members of unrecognized religious groups have migrated to the UK and other EU member states.

EU states have significantly different political, religious laws. It's a Union of sovereign States. Therefore, each country is entitled to enact their own laws. For example, Austria recognizes twelve religions while Greece only three (Orthodox, Islam and Judaism). The legal status of political parties are also determined by each member state. The EU Parliament is officially secular and composed of a wide range of different political groups.

Amnesty International Country Report
2015 Human Rights Report (USDOS)
International Religious Freedom Report 2015 (USDOS)

Background Note: Belgium (USDOS)
Belgium - CIA - The World Factbook

Related Links
Human Rights in Iran