DRAFT LAW ON TRANSFERS OF RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES INTO A DIFFERENT JURISDICTION INTRODUCED
Institute of Religious Liberty, 1 March 2016
A bill of changes in the Ukrainian law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations," which pertain to changes by religious societies in their subordination to religious centers, has been introduced into the Verkhovna Rada.
The initiators of this draft law No. 4128 were Viktor Elensky, Svetlana Voitsekhovskaia, Pavel Kishkar, and another 4 people's deputies of Ukraine, the Institute of Religious Liberty reports.
According to the authors' plan, the draft law was prepared "for the purpose of ensuring for representatives of religious societies the right to a conscious choice and free and unhindered change in their subordination to religious centers for satisfaction of their religious needs and worthy expression of religious feelings." The proposed changes are intended "to normalize the procedure of changing the affiliation of religious groups functioning in Ukraine and outside its borders with religious centers (administrations)."
Such an initiative has already evoked criticism by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (in unity with the Moscow patriarchate), whose representative expressed concern regarding the use of these changes for simplifying the transfer of church buildings during transfers of Orthodox parishes from the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate into the UPTs of the Kiev patriarchate.
"In practice this will look like this: at a general meeting of believing citizens (parish meetings) other persons who do not belong to the religious parish will be able to attend and then have the right to vote and they will be able to adopt or change the charter of the religious society," Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, chairman of the synod's Information Department of the UPTs, declared.
On the other hand, in the opinion of experts of the Institute of Religious Liberty, difficulties may arise in the activity of those religious societies whose charters provide for a fixed membership, in particular in protestant (evangelical) churches or which delegate the right of introducing changes into a charter to other administrative bodies—parish councils, councils of elders, fraternal councils, etc.
"In these circumstances, a decision about a change of confessional affiliation of a religious society can be made not by a general meeting of its members but by outsiders who from time to time or earlier attended its public worship services. The result may be a situation where the registration agencies will have to decide: to take into account a decision adopted in accordance with the registered charter of the religious society or in accordance with legislative changes. The same problem may also be faced by courts," noted attorney Maksim Vasin, the executive director of the Institute of Religious Liberty and member of the Expert Council within the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine.
It should be recalled that the decision of the European Court for Human Rights, in the case "St. Michael's parish v. Ukraine," says:
"The court recalls that religious associations have the right of determining at their own discretion how they will receive new members and exclude existing members. The internal structure of a religious organization and rules governing membership in it should be viewed as a means whereby such organizations express their views and adherence to their religious traditions. The court points out that the right to freedom of religious confession excludes any possibility for the state to evaluate the legitimacy of means of expression of religious views."
Now draft law No. 4128 awaits preliminary review by the parliamentary Committee on Matters of Culture and Spirituality. (tr. by PDS, posted 1 March 2016)
UPTs ACCUSES RADA DEPUTIES OF ATTEMPT TO LEGALIZE HOSTILE TAKEOVERS OF CHURCHES
Interfax-Religiia, 29 February 2016
The head of the Legal Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, criticized a draft law registered in the Rada by a group of deputies.
"The subject of the legislative initiative proposes to strengthen, on the legislative level, schemes of hostile takeover by which in western Ukraine today churches are being taken away from UPTs believers," the priest's commentary, which was published on the UPTs website, says.
In the opinion of the church's representative, the draft law "cannot be adopted and poses a potential threat to Ukrainian society."
Said draft law was registered on 23 February and it proposes to introduce changes into the Ukrainian law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations" in terms of change by religious societies in their subordination.
The priest said that the authors of the draft law propose to allow religious societies to switch their subordination by means of registration of a new version of the charter (statutes) or of introducing changes and additions to it, adopted with the consent of a simple majority of participants in a meeting of citizens who belong to the religious society.
The UPTs representative pointed out that the charter of a religious society, as well as additions to it, are adopted in a general meeting of believers and not at a "meeting of citizens."
"In the second place, from the contents of the proposed rule it seems that 'at meetings of citizens belonging to a religious society' there may also be present other persons who do not belong to the religious society but who by a majority may give consent to a change in the charter of a religious society," he declared.
Earlier Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill stated that now more than 30 UPTs church buildings have been seized by force and another ten, at least, are under threat of attack by schismatics and nationalists "who claim that what is happening is supposedly a voluntary transfer of believers into the so-called Kiev patriarchate."
"Actually this is a most genuine hostile takeover by bandits. They conduct a meeting of persons who have nothing to do with the society and then with the assistance of authorities they falsify the charter documents and seize the church building by forces of nationalist militants, and the parish of the church along with its priest are thrown out onto the street," he observed, adding that parishes of the canonical church that have been expelled from their church buildings have won all court proceedings, "but the schismatics and their bandit armed formations ignore the decisions of the courts." (tr. by PDS, posted 1 March 2016)
Text of draft law
23 February 2016
23 February 2016
LAW OF UKRAINE
On introducing changes into the Ukrainian law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations"
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine resolves:
I. To introduce into article 8 of the Ukrainian law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations" the following changes:
1) to add to part one a sentence that reads: "The membership of a person in a religious society is determined by his self-identification with this religious society, confirmation of which is participation in the religious life of a specific society";
2) to add to the second part, after the words "free change of this subordination" the words:
"By means of registration of a new version of the charter (statutes) or changes and additions to it, adopted with the consent to such a change of a simple majority of persons attending a meeting of citizens who belong to the religious society."
II. Concluding provisions
1. 1. The present law takes effect from the day following the day of its publication.
2.2. Within one month from the day the present law takes effect, the cabinet of ministers of Ukraine will bring its normative legal acts into conformity with the present law and ensure that the conduct of the normative legal acts of ministries and other central agencies of executive power of Ukraine are in conformity with the present law. (tr. by PDS, posted 1 March 2016)
Ukrainian original posted on official portal of Verkhovna Rada, 23 February 2016
Article 8: Religious society
1) A religious society is a local religious organization of believing citizens of one and the same cult, religious confession, denomination, movement, or tradition, voluntarily united with the goal of joint satisfaction of religious needs.
2) The state recognizes the right of a
religious society to
its subordination in canonical and organizational matters to any
centers (administrations) functioning in Ukraine and outside its
of free change of this subordination. (tr. by PDS, posted 1
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