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Religious intolerance in Belgium

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The Belgian Parliamentary Commission on Cults submitted a report to the Belgian Parliament in 1997.  It identified 189 churches, sects, other religious groups, and para-church organizations as "cults". The list covered a very wide range of religious groups, including the Amish Mission in Belgium, 2 Buddhist groups, Opus Dei (a lay Roman Catholic group), 21 Evangelical Christian denominations, Quakers, and Satanists.

The Commission appeared to have adopted the fears of many Belgians with regards to small or emerging religious groups. Pastor Jules Lambotte, head of the Amish Mission commented: "In the minds of the population, all the churches which do not belong to the United Protestant Church of Belgium, officially recognized by the state, are cults." Samuel Liberek, head of the Association of Protestant Evangelical Churches in Belgium commented: "We were not very happy to see that our churches, about 50 in all, had been listed as cults. We were never asked to take part in the parliamentary hearing, and didn't know that we had been filed by the police or the intelligence services or that some of our former members might have complained about us at the Commission." Two Buddhist institutes and the Roman Catholic church complained as well.

The Belgian Parliament adopted the report's conclusions and recommendations. However, it neither approved nor disapproved of the list of "cults".  Some of the religious groups that were listed were:
bullet Amish Mission in Belgium
bullet Assemblies of God
bullet Association of Flemish Pentecostal Assemblies
bullet Bethel Pentecostal Church
bullet Calvary Christian Center
bullet Celestian Church of Christ
bullet Charismatic Revival
bullet Christian Church
bullet Christ's Church in Brussels
bullet Darbyst Brothers' Assemblies
bullet Evangelical Christians
bullet Evangelical Free Church
bullet Free Evangelical Pentecostal Assemblies
bullet Hasidic Judaism
bullet International Church of Christ
bullet Pentecostal Evangelical Action
bullet Reformed Evangelism Center (in Essen)
bullet Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
bullet 4 Roman Catholic organizations, including Opus Dei
bullet Seventh-Day Adventists
bullet Universal Church of God
bullet Universal Church of the Kingdom of God
bullet YWCA

The Quakers complained to the government at the Deputy Prime Minister level about their inclusion on the list. They pointed out their their humanitarian aid programs in post World War II Europe, and requesting to see the evidence against them which had been presented to the Parliamentary Commission by the federal police in a closed session. They were unsuccessful.

This government panic about cults appears to have their foundation in the anti-cult and counter-cult movements in the US and Canada, which started in the early 1970's, peaked in the 1980's and is now in rapid decline. Like many religious and psychological hoaxes, this movement has been exported to Europe, Russia and a number of English speaking countries. It was given a major boost in credibility by the mass murder and suicide by members of the Solar Temple destructive cult. The counter-cult movement has succeeded in transferring the public's  abhorrence of doomsday cults against all small or new religious groups - both destructive cults and benign groups. All countries without a wall of separation between church and state are succeptable to this type of public and governmental panic.

Reference

  1. "Belgian Government Labels Minority Religions 'Cults,'" Christians in Crisis magazine, 1997-NOV/DEC

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