Theory and practice

While Belgium is a secular state, the government recognises a number of religious and Humanist groups which receive taxpayer-funded subsidies. This has come to the fore recently as the Government is in the process of withdrawing recognition from the Fatih mosque in Beringen over its links to the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs.

This has led to Open VLD president, Gwendolyn Rutten to call for an end to these subsidies. This is a position I happen to agree with — the only way to to guarantee a fair and consistent approach to all people, regardless of faith, is to not favour any religious (or non-religious) group.

Of course the churches disagree, but I was a bit surprised to see the reaction of Sylvain Peeters from the Union of Humanist Associations:

“In theory I am in favour of a strict separation of church and state,” he said, “but if you extend this idea to education, care institutions and political parties, then you touch the whole of society.”

Surely that’s the point. It’s because religion embeds itself in the whole of society that society needs to ensure that no group (or groups) is able to claim special treatment.