Parliament to appeal ruling on religious sect

Brussels, Belgium — The Belgian Parliament is to appeal in the Supreme Court a ruling by the Brussels appeals court upholding a complaint by a religious sect.

The court ruled that the parliament investigation commission acted carelessly when compiling in 1997 a report over religious sects in Belgium.

The report included an extract about the Universal Church of God's Kingdom, which later submitted a complaint, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported on Friday.

The sect was included in a list of suspected criminal organisations because of allegations that large amounts of money were being extorted from its members.

The Brazilian organisation is housed in a disused cinema in the centre of Antwerp, Flemish public broadcaster VRT reported.

Lower House of Parliament speaker Herman de Croo is enraged by the court finding. "If it is not revised, this will signify the end of parliamentary independence," he said.

The ruling was handed down on 28 June and was signed into effect at the start of August.

The parliament was ordered to pay the church and three of its directors a symbolical amount of EUR 1 in damages and publish the finding in newspapers 'De Standaard' and 'Le Soir' on Saturday.

The appeals court ruled that the parliament can not defend itself with article 58 of the Constitution that details parliamentary independence.

De Croo said this could create an imbalance between three powers in Belgium, namely the executive, legislative and judicial authorities. He said the judiciary also had to respect that division of powers.

Three other sects are currently involved in judicial procedures against the Belgian State.