Brussels hospitals ban religious dress

Public hospitals throughout Brussels’ Iris group are to ban the wearing of all visible religious dress by their staff, it was announced Tuesday.

Moliere-Longchamps, Baron Lambert, CHU Brugmann, J Bracops, and Etterbeek-Ixelles hospitals will ban religious dress from later this month.

“We had to establish a set of rules because the situation was becoming a problem,” director of human resources at Iris, Michel Peeters, told La Libre Belgique.

Employees within the Iris group will have to adhere to the same rules. Until now, each management group had its own stance on the wearing of religious dress to work. Several private hospitals have already adopted a ban on religious dress.

“In certain hospitals, patients have complained about being cared for by people who were manifesting their religion too aggressively,” said president of the Brugmann Hospital board, Jean-Marie Amand.

Peeters notes the problem runs farther than religious dress, citing cases whereby employees attempted to convert patients, refused to serve meals containing pork, refused to wash men, or maintained a derogatory attitude towards women having an abortion.

Some Belgian medical schools have taken a similar approach to Iris, with the Free University of Brussels (ULB) banning women from carrying a veil during practical exercises and while undertaking practical training within a hospital environment.

Earlier this week two Belgian Senators, Socialist Anne-Marie Lizin, and Liberal Alain Destexhe, proposed that Belgian schools should outlaw the wearing of ostentatious religious dress, including the Islamic headscarf.

Large crosses, veils, tchadors and kippas would be banned in Belgian schools by the end of 2004 if their resolution, to be tabled before senators, and similar to proposals made in France at the end of last year, is passed.

Arguing that ostentatious religious iconography works against gender equality in the school environment, Lizin and Destexhe said the law would “protect minors and favour emancipation.”