Pro-Moscow Ukrainian Orthodox object to proposed law


UNIAN, 25 March 2016


The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UPTs) has called the authors of draft law No. 4128 to withdraw it and all people's deputies not to vote for this legislative initiative.


This statement was presented by participants in a press conference, which was held in the Kiev caves lavra, the Center of Information of the UPTs reports.


"Draft law No. 4128 violates the constitution of Ukraine. In addition, it contradicts international obligations of Ukraine relative to the observation of the rights and liberties of people. This draft law is a manifestation of discrimination on the legislative level with respect to people who confess various religious convictions," the chairman of the synodal Department of Information and Enlightenment of the UPTs, Bishop Kliment, thinks.


The Ukrainian Orthodox Church warns that draft law No. 4128 represents a threat for the country, inasmuch as it is aimed at enflaming strife, division of society, and intensification of inter-confessional conflicts. In particular, the UPTs expresses worry that this legislative initiative is an attempt to strengthen at the legislative level schemes of seizing churches of the UPTs.


The chairman of the Legal Department of the UPTs, Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, noted that draft law No.. 4128 is not consistent with national legislation and its conceptual framework is unclear.


"The term 'self-identification' does not exist in legislation, and it is not a basis for acknowledging the adherence of a person to one or another religious society. Also, the draft law offers to persons who do not belong to a religious society, but who unilaterally have declared that they identify themselves with it, the right to vote in parish assemblies and the possibility of affecting the decision regarding a change of jurisdiction," Archpriest Alexander Bakhov pointed out. He said that the lawmakers have not taken into account that the adoption of this bill could cause harm to other religious organizations also.


In his turn, the secretary of the Rovno diocese of the UPTs, Archpriest Vitaly Gerlinsky, explained that now all rights of ownership by UPTs parishes of churches where seizure has been attempted have been certified by a court. But residents of certain residential areas, who never have gone into the churches, are conducting meetings with a demand to take the churches from religious parishes of the UPTs and to transfer them to the UPTsKP.


"Very unfortunately, in villages where a hostile takeover of churches has occurred, there has been a widespread identification of the religious parish with the territorial society. When an assembly is convened, everybody who belongs to the village society may participate, regardless of their religious confession. In the majority of cases, with the collaboration of the authorities, such referendums have been conducted in village clubs, schools, and village councils, and people, who in the majority of cases have nothing to do with the religious parish, decide the fate of the church building that belongs to the religious parish," the secretary of the Rovno diocese of the UPTs explained.


According to the spokespersons, physical force has been used against believers of the UPTs, who defended their church buildings during takeovers. In particular, more than 20 criminal proceedings have been opened in Ternopol, Rovno, and Volyn provinces.


Press conference participants noted that in the event of illegal actions by representatives of the Ministry of Culture or legalization by deputies of schemes of hostile takeovers of church buildings, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will defend the legal rights of its believers in courts and also will appeal to international institutions. After all, representatives of international rights advocacy organizations, the monitoring mission of the CSCE, and the United Nations Committee on Human Rights have already expressed concern about religious discrimination and violations of believers' rights in Ukraine.


As was reported, on 23 February 2016 a group of deputies registered in the Verkhovna Rada draft law No. 4128 for introducing changes into the Ukrainian law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations" (regarding changes by religious societies in their subordination). The draft law proposes to add to article 8 of the existing law a provision about determining the affiliation of citizens with a particular religious parish through their self-identification with this parish. In addition, a rule is proposed according to which a religious parish may change its subordination by means of registration of a new version of its charter or by changes and additions to it that are adopted by a simple majority of persons attending a meeting of citizens. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 March 2016)

Background articles: Ukrainian parliament may intervene in church seizures
March 1, 2016

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