Freedom of religion in Belgium

Personification of "Freedom of Worship" on the Congress Column in Brussels

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. However, government officials continued to have the authority to research and monitor religious groups that are not officially recognized. There were few reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice. Some reports of discrimination against minority religious groups surfaced, as well.

Religious demography

The Government of Belgium does not keep statistics listing religious affiliation but the population is predominantly Roman Catholic, according to a 2006 government report and a university study issued in 2000. According to a separate survey issued in 2000, which surveyed philosophical orientation based on self-identification, 47 percent of the population identify themselves as practicing Catholics, but a slightly larger number, 57.3 percent, identify themselves as belonging to the Catholic Church. Fifteen percent identify themselves as being Christian, but neither Catholic nor Protestant. Being a part of the Church doesn't mean "believer" in Belgium, since it has been a tradition to baptize your children for a long time in Belgian culture. The country consists of 42-43% non-believers.[1]

The number of adherents belonging to smaller religious groups are: Islam, 400,000 adherents: Protestantism, 140,000; Orthodox, 70,000; Jewish, 55,000; and Anglicanism 11,000. The larger nonrecognized religions include Jehovah's Witnesses (25,000 baptized, 50,000 "churchgoers"). Estimates for other bodies include the independent Protestant congregations, 10,000; Buddhists, 10,000; members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 4,000; Seventh-day Adventists, 2,000; Hindus, 5,000; Sikhs, 3,000; Hare Krishnas, 1,500; and the Church of Scientology, 200-300.

A 2005 report of the Université Libre de Bruxelles estimates that 15 percent of the Catholic population regularly attend religious services, and 10 percent of the Muslim population are "practicing Muslims."

Despite these limited numbers, religion continues to play a role in some life events in Belgium: 25.6 percent of couples opt for a marriage in the Church, 58.4 percent of funerals include religious services and 54.6 percent of the children born in the country are baptized. Only 8.5 percent of the population went to the church on Christmas in 2007.[2]

In Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, religious events are in huge decline. Only 7.2 percent opt for a marriage in the Church, 22.6 percent of the funerals include religious services and 14.8 of the children born in Brussels are baptized.[2]