Bible Reading about Female Submission Prompts Calls for Ban on Religious Public Broadcasting

The Dutch Bible Society claims that the passage was taken out of context.

A New Testament reading that demanded women should be submissive to husbands has ignited calls to terminate public television religious broadcasts in Belgium. The offending portion was Ephesians 5.22-33. The passage was read aloud from VRT, a Flemish television station located in Grimbergen, a settlement with a majorly Catholic population. During the program, a lay reader exhorted women to submit to their husbands as a man is head of a woman like Christ heads the church.

This medieval theology was quickly called out by Sven Gatz, the media minister in Flanders. He requested a ban of all religious services exhibited by public broadcasters as a response to this religious service being aired by VRT and associated radio stations. The minister responded saying that there should not be any broadcast of women-unfriendly and outdated statements. He then wondered what the public reaction would be if a Muslim Imam would have said the same. Gatz is from Open VLD, the Flemish liberal party. He later told a Belgian news channel that he will retry for a complete abolition of all religious services scheduled to take place or in the future. The minister's call for a ban is not new. He demanded the same in December.

Gatz has his arguments for the ban all planned out. He pointed out that these statements being quoted from an ancient book does not make for a valid argument for continued public broadcasts. When reporters asked him for his previous calls for a ban, he said that the previous one was unsuccessful as N-VA and CD&V did not agree on this issue. He then said that it is his fervent hope that incidents like these will provide fresh impetus to the debate.

Belgium is not new to such controversies. The representation of culture, religion, and language is a hot-button topic in the country. Belgium has three official languages: German, French, and Dutch. The Dutch Bible Society, which counts Flemish talkers in its membership list, says the passage was read was taken out of context. A spokesperson said that what was not said on the radio was the previous statement to the one read out: accept the authority of one another if you respect Christ. This line puts a different spin into the whole matter.

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