ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS

This is the translation of the Russian text of the law printed in the newspaper on 1 October 1997, the effective date of the law.

The Federation Assembly of the Russian federation,

adopts the present federal law.

CHAPTER 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS

Article 1. The object regulated by the present federal law

The present federal law regulates legal relations in the area of human and civil rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession, as well as the legal status of religious associations.

Article 2. Legislation about freedom of conscience, freedom of religious professions, and religious associations

1. Legislation about freedom of conscience, freedom of religious profession, and religious associations consists of all pertinent standards of the constitution of the Russian federation, Civil Code of the Russian federation, the present federal law, and other normative legal acts of the Russian federation adopted in accordance with them, as well as normative legal acts of the constituent regions of the Russian federation.

2. The human and civil rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession are regulated by federal law. Laws and other normative legal acts, adopted within the Russian federation and pertaining to the implementation of the rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession, as well as the activity of religious association, must comport with the present federal law. In cases where normative legal acts of constituent regions of the Russian federation on matters of protection of the rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession and matters of the activity of religious associations contradict the present federal law, the present federal law is operative.

3. Nothing in the legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religious profession, and of religious associations should be interpreted in a sense that lessens or infringes the human and civil rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession that are guaranteed in the constitution of the Russian federation or derive from international treaties of the Russian federation.

Article 3. The right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession

1. Freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession, including the right to profess individually or corporately with other persons any religion or not to profess any, and to choose and change freely, and to hold and disseminate religious and other convictions and to act in accordance with them are guaranteed within the Russian federation. Foreign citizens and persons without citizenship who legally reside on the territory of the Russian federation enjoy the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession on a equal basis with citizens of the Russian federation and incur the liability established by federal laws for violation of the legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religious profession and on religious associations.

2. The human and civil rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession may be restricted by federal law only to the extent necessary to protect the bases of the constitutional order, morality, health, rights, and legal interests of individuals and citizens and to secure the defense of the country and state security.

3. Creation of privileges, restrictions, or any form of discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation is not permitted.

4. Citizens of the Russian federation are equal before the law in all areas of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural life irrespective of religious affiliation and religious adherence. Citizens of the Russian federation whose convictions or religious profession preclude performance of military service have the right to substitute alternative civic service for it. Upon the request of religious organizations, and by decision of the president of the Russian federation, clergy may be granted deferment from conscription to military service and exemption from military muster in peacetime, in accordance with legislation of the Russian federation on military obligation and military service.

5. No one is obliged to provide information about personal religious affiliation, nor can be subjected to duress for determining religious affiliation or confession or rejection of religious confession, or for participation or nonparticipation in religious services, or other religious rites and ceremonies or the activity of religious associations or religious education. Enticement of minors into religious associations is forbidden, as well as the teaching of religion to minors against their will and without the consent of their parents or guardians.

6. Prohibition of the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession, including actions accompanied by violence against the individual, intentional offense to the sentiment of citizens with regard to their religious affiliation, propaganda of religious superiority, destruction or alienation of property or threat thereof, is prohibited and is prosecuted in accordance with federal law. The conduct of public ceremonies and the distribution of texts and illustrations that offend religious sentiments of citizens in the vicinity of objects of religious veneration are prohibited.

7. The confidentiality of the confessional is protected by law. A member of the clergy cannot be prosecuted for refusal to give evidence regarding circumstances that have become known in the confessional.

Article 4. The state and religious associations

1. The Russian federation is a secular state. No religion may be established as a state or obligatory religion; religious associations are separated from the state and are equal before the law.

2. In accordance with the constitutional principle of separation of religious associations from the state, the state

3. The state regulates the granting to religious organizations of tax and other privileges, and grants financial, material, and other support to religious organizations for restoration, maintenance, and preservation of buildings and objects that are monuments of history and culture, and for support of teaching general educational subjects in educational institutions that have been created by religious organizations in accordance with the legislation of the Russian federation on education.

4. The activity of agencies of state power and agencies of local administration is not accompanied by public religious rites and ceremonies. Officials of state power, or of other state agencies, or of agencies of local administration, as well as military figures, do not have the right to use their official status for advancing one or another religious affiliation.

5. In accordance with the constitutional principle of the separation of religious associations from the state, religious associations

6. The separation of religious associations from the state does not entail an abatement of the rights of members of those association to participate on an equal basis with other citizens in the administration of state affairs, elections to agencies of state power and agencies of local administration, or the activity of political parties, political movements and other public associations.

7. Upon petition of religious organizations, responsible agencies of state power in the Russian federation have the right to declare religious holidays to be nonworking (holiday) days in the corresponding territories.

Article 5. Religious education

1. Each person has the right to receive religious education of one's own choice, individually or corporately with others.

2. Training and education of children are carried out by the parents or guardians with due regard for the rights of the child to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession.

3. Religious organizations have the right to teach religion directly to their own adherents. Religious organizations have the right, in accordance with their charters and the legislation of the Russian federation, to create educational institutions.

4. Upon the request of parents or guardians, with the consent of children who are enrolled in state and municipal educational institutions, the administration of said institutions, with the permission of appropriate agencies of local administration, affords a religious organization the possibility of teaching religion apart from the general curriculum.

CHAPTER II. RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS

Article 6. Religious associations

1. A religious association in the Russian federation is defined as a voluntary association of citizens of the Russian federation and other persons permanently and legally residing on the territory of the Russian federation, formed for the purposes of corporate confession and dissemination of faith and manifesting the following characteristics appropriate to these purposes:

2. Religious associations may be formed as religious groups and religious organizations.

3. The creation of religious associations within agencies of state authority, other state agencies, state institutions and agencies of local administration, military units, and state and municipal organizations is forbidden.

4. The formation and activity of religious association whose goals and activities violate the law are forbidden.

Article 7. Religious group

1. A religious group in the present federal law is defined as a voluntary association of citizens, formed for the purposes of corporate confession and dissemination of faith, functioning without state registration and acquiring the legal capacity of juridical person . The premises and property necessary for the activity of a religious group are acquired for the group's use by its participants.

2. Citizens constituting a religious group with the intention of subsequently transforming it into a religious organization inform agencies of local administration about its formation and commencement of activity.

3. Religious groups have the right to perform religious services and other religious rites and ceremonies and to conduct religious instruction and religious education of their adherents.

Article 8. Religious organization.

1. A religious organization is defined as a voluntary association of citizens of the Russian federation and other persons permanently and legally residing on the territory of the Russian federation, formed for the purposes of corporate confession and dissemination of faith and registered in the capacity of a juridical person by procedure established by law.

2. Religious organizations are categorized as local or centralized in accordance with the territorial sphere of their activity.

3. A local religious organization is defined as a religious organization comprising no fewer than ten participants who are eighteen years of age or older and permanently reside in a single locale or urban or rural settlement .

4. A centralized religious organization is defined as a religious organization comprising at least three local religious organization in accordance with its own charter.

5. A centralized religious organization whose structures have operated on the territory of the Russian federation on a legal basis for a period of no fewer than fifty years at the time of the application by the given religious organization to the registration agency for state registration has the right to use the words "Russia," "Russian," and derivatives from them in their names.

6. A religious organization is also defined as an institution or organization created by a centralized religious organization in accordance with its charter that has the purposes and characteristics which are stipulated in point 1 of article 6 of the present federal law, including a directing or coordinating body or institution as well as an institution of professional religious education.

7. In consideration of questions regarding the activity of religious organizations in society, agencies of state power take into account the territorial sphere of the activity of a religious organization and afford to appropriate religious organization the possibility of participation in the consideration of said questions.

8. The name of a religious organization must contain information about its religious confession. A religious organization is obliged to indicate its full name while conducting its activity.

9. A religious organization is obliged annually to inform the agency that registered it about the continuation of its activity with a specification of the information that is included in the unified state register of juridical person s. Said information about local religious organizations may be presented to the registering agency by the appropriate centralized religious organization. Failure to submit said information in the course of three years constitutes a basis for the registering agency to file suit in court for recognition that the religious organization has ceased its activity.

Article 9. Creation of religious organizations

1. The persons eligible to be founders of a local religious organization are no fewer than ten Russian citizens who are united in a religious group, which has confirmation, provided of local administration, of its existence on the given territory for a period of no fewer than fifteen years, or confirmation of its membership in the structure of a centralized religious organization of the same religious confession, provided by said organization.

2. Centralized religious organizations are formed from no fewer than three local religious organizations of the same religious confession in accordance with their own arrangements of religious organizations provided such arrangements do not violate the law.

Article 10. Charter of a religious organization

1. A religious organization functions on the basis of a charter which has been approved by its founders or a centralized religious organization and should conform to the requirements of the civil legislation of the Russian federation.

2. The charter of a religious organization indicates

Article 11. State registration of religious organizations

1. State registration of religious organizations is performed by a federal agency of justice and agencies of justice of constituent regions of the Russian federation by a procedure established in accordance with civil legislation of the Russian federation and the present federal law.

2. State registration of a local or centralized religious organization comprising local religious organizations, located within the boundaries of a single constituent element of the Russian federation, is performed by an agency of justice of the respective constituent element of the Russian federation.

3. The federal agency of justice registers the centralized religious organizations that comprise local religious organization on the territories of two or more constituent regions of the Russian federation.

4. State registration of religious organizations that are formed by centralized religious organizations in accordance with point 7 of article 8 of the present federal law is performed by the agency of justice that registered the respective religious organization.

5. For state registration of a local religious organization the founders submit to the appropriate agency of justice

6. If the supreme directing body (center) of the religious organization being formed is located outside the boundaries of the Russian federation, in addition to the documents indicated in point 5 of the present article, in the established procedure the charter or other foundational document of the foreign religious organization, confirmed by a state agency of the state in which that organization is located, is presented.

7. The bases for state registration of centralized religious organizations and religious organizations formed by centralized religious organizations are

Upon creation of a centralized religious organization the founder (founders) also present charters of no fewer than three local religious organizations that are part of its structure and information about other religious organizations that are part of said structure.

8. Application for state registration of a religious organization which is being created by a centralized religious organization or on the basis of confirmation provided by a centralized religious organization is reviewed within a period of one month from the day of submission of all documents stipulated by the present article. In other cases the registering agency has the right to extend the period of review of documents up to six months to conduct a state expert analysis by scholars of religion. The procedure for conducting a state expert analysis by scholars of religion is established by the government of the Russian federation.

9. In case of noncompliance by the applicant (applicants) of the requirements stipulated in points 4-6 of the present article, the registering organ has the right to leave the application without consideration, informing the applicant (applicants) about this.

10. In case of adoption of a decision concerning registration of a religious organization, the registering organ gives to the application evidence of the established form concerning state registration of a religious organization and enter information about the state registration into the unified state register of juridical persons, which is available as public information.

11. Amendments and additions entered into the charters of religious organization are subject to state registration by the procedure stipulated for registration of religious organizations and they become effective for third persons from the day of state registration.

12. In case of change in data included in the unified state register of juridical person s and of its location (juridical address), the religious organization notifies the registering agency about this within one month from the day of the onset of such a change.

Article 12 Denial of state registration of a religious organization

1. A religious organization may be denied state registration if

2. In case of denial of state registration of a religious organization, the applicant (applicants) is notified about the decision in written form with an indication of the basis for the denial. Denial on the basis of the inexpediency of the creation of the religious organization is not permitted. Denial of state registration of a religious organization by the registering agency, as well as its rejection of such registration, may be appealed in court.

Article 13. Representation of foreign religious organizations

1. A foreign religious organization is defined as an organization created outside of the borders of the Russian federation in accordance with the legislation of a foreign state.

2. A foreign religious organization may be granted the right to open its representation on the territory of the Russian federation. The representation of the foreign religious organization may not engage in cultural and other religious activity nor does it have the status of a religious association established by the present federal law.

3. The procedure for registration, opening, and closing of the representation of a foreign religious organization is established by the government of the Russian federation in accordance with the legislation of the Russian federation.

4. In case of the adoption of a decision regarding the registration of the representation of a foreign religious organization, its representative is given information in the form established by the government of the Russian federation.

5. A Russian religious organization has the right to have within itself representation of a foreign religious organization.

Article 14. Liquidation of a religious organization and prohibition of the activity of a religious association in case of their violation of legislation

1. Religious organizations may be liquidated

2. Bases for the liquidation of a religious organization and prohibition of the activity of a religious organization or religious group by judicial procedure are 3. Agencies of the procuracy of the Russian federation, and an agency conducting registration of religious organization, as well as agencies of local law enforcement have the right to present in court suggestions about the liquidation of a religious organization or prohibition of the activity of a religious organization or religious group.

4. The legal capacity of the liquidated religious organization as a juridical person ceases and the property of said liquidated religious organization is disbursed in accordance with its charter and the civil legislation of the Russian federation.

5. The bases and procedure of liquidation of a religious organization upon decision of a court apply also to the situation of prohibition of the activity of a religious group.

CHAPTER III. RIGHTS AND CONDITIONS OF THE ACTIVITY OF RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS

Article 15. Internal structures of religious organizations

1. Religious organizations function in accordance with their internal structures, provided they do not violate legislation of the Russian federation and they possess the legal capability stipulated in their charters.

2. The state respects the internal structures of religious organizations if said structures do not violate the legislation of the Russian federation.

Article 16. Religious rites and ceremonies

1. Religious organizations have the right to establish and maintain cult buildings and premises, other places and objects, especially designated for religious services, prayer and religious meetings, and religious adoration (pilgrimage).

2. Religious services and other religious rites and ceremonies are conducted without impediment within cult buildings and premises and territories attached to them, in other places designated for religious organizations for their purposes, in places of pilgrimage, in institutions and enterprises of religious organizations, in cemeteries and crematoria, and in living quarters.

3. Religious organizations have the right to conduct religious rites in medical treatment and hospital institutions, children's homes, homes for the elderly and invalids, and in institutions of criminal punishment for deprivation of liberty, upon requests of citizens in them, in premises especially set aside by the administration for these purposes. The conduct of religious rites in premises of sites for holding people under guard is permitted on condition of observation of the requirements of the criminal procedural legislation of the Russian federation.

4. The command of military units, on condition of observance of the requirements of military charters, does not interfere with the participation of military service personnel in religious services and other religious rites and ceremonies.

5. In other situations public religious services and other religious rites and ceremonies are conducted according to the procedure established for conduct of demonstrations, processions, and demonstrations.

Article 17. Religious literature and objects with religious significance

1. Religious organizations have the right to manufacture, acquire, export, import, and distribute religious literature, printed material, audio-visual materials, and other objects with religious significance.

2. Religious organizations enjoy the exclusive right to establish organization publishing liturgical literature and manufacturing objects with religious significance.

3. Literature, printed material, and audio-visual materials, produced by religious organizations must have the trademark with the full name of the given religious organization.

Article 18. Charitable and cultural-educational activity of religious organizations

1. Religious organizations have the right to conduct charitable activity both immediately and through institutions of charitable organizations.

2. For the achievement of their charter purposes and tasks, religious organizations have the right, in accordance with procedures established by the legislation of the Russian federation, to create cultural-educational organizations and educational and other institutions, and to establish mass media.

3. The state cooperates with and supports the charitable activity of religious organizations and their achievement of socially significant cultural-educational programs and celebrations.

Article 19. Institutions of professional religious education

1. Religious organizations have the exclusive right, in accordance with their charters, to create institutions of professional religious education (ecclesiastical educational institutions) for preparing ministers and religious personal.

2. Institutions of professional religious education are subject to registration as religious organization and receive a state license to the right of conducting educational activity.

3. Citizens who are studying in the resident departments of institutions of professional religious education, which have a state license, enjoy the right to deferment from conscription to military service in accordance with the legislation on military obligation and military service and other privileges, stipulated in the legislation of the Russian federation.

Article 20. International communications and contacts

1. Religious organizations have the right to establish and maintain international communications and contacts, including for purposes of pilgrimage, participation in meetings and other events, acquisition of religious education, and invitations to foreign citizens for these purposes.

2. Religious organizations have the exclusive right of inviting foreign citizens for purposes of professional activity, including preaching and religious activity in those organizations in accordance with federal legislation..

Article 21. The right of ownership of religious organizations

1. Religious organizations may own buildings, land parcels, items intended for manufacturing, social, charitable, cultural-educational and other purposes, objects for religious purposes, financial means and other property required for securing their activity, including such as pertains to monuments of history and cultures.

2. Religious organization have the right to ownership of property, acquired or created by them at the expense of their own resources, donated by citizens and organizations or whose ownership is transferred to the religious organizations by the state or acquired by other means that do not violate the legislation of the Russian federation.

3. The transfer of ownership to religious organizations, for use in achieving their purposes, of cult buildings and premises, with the land portions attached to them, and of other property having religious signification, which is owned by state and municipal agencies, is accomplished free of charge.

4. Religious organizations have the right to own property abroad.

5. Movable and immovable property with liturgical significance may not be subject to confiscation on the basis of claims by creditors. The enumeration of forms of property of liturgical significance which are exempt from confiscation on the basis of creditors' claims in drawn up by the government of the Russian federation , on the basis of suggestions made by religious organizations.

Article 22. Use of property that is owned by the state, citizens, and their associations

1. Religious organizations have the right to use for their needs plots of land, buildings, and property granted to them by state, municipal, public, and other organizations and citizens, in accordance with the legislation of the Russian federation.

2. The transfer of property that is owned by state or municipal agencies to religious organizations for appropriate use of cult buildings and premises with the attached parcels of land and other property having religious significance is carried out free of charge.

Article 23. Entrepreneurial activity of religious organizations

Religious organizations have the right to conduct entrepreneurial activity and to create their own enterprises in accordance with procedure established by legislation of the Russian federation.

Article 24. Legal labor relations in religious organizations

1. Religious organizations have the right in accordance with their charters to conclude labor agreements (contracts) with workers.

2. The conditions of labor and its compensation are determined, in accordance with the legislation of the Russian federation, by a labor agreement (contract) between the religious organization (employer) and worker.

3. Legislation of the Russian federation on labor applies to citizens who are working in religious organizations in accord with labor agreements (contracts).

4. Workers of religious organizations and clergy are subject to required state social security, social and medical insurance, and pension funds in accordance with legislation of the Russian federation.

CHAPTER IV. SUPERVISION AND VERIFICATION OF FULFILLMENT OF THE LEGISLATION ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE, FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS PROFESSION, AND RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS

Article 25. Conduct of supervision and verification

1. Supervision of the fulfillment of the legislation of the Russian federation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religious profession, and religious associations is conducted by agencies of the procuracy of the Russian federation.

2. The agency that has registered a religious organization conducts the supervision of its observance of its charter regarding the purposes and procedure of its activity.

Article 26. Responsibility for violation of legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religious profession and religious associations

Violation of the legislation of the Russian federation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religious profession, and religious associations incurs criminal, administrative, and other liability in accordance with the legislation of the Russian federation.

Article 27. Concluding provisions

1. The present federal law becomes effective on the day of its official publication.

2. The government of the Russian federation is responsible to adopt normative legal acts necessary for the implementation of the present federal law.

3. Charters and other foundational documents of religious associations that were created before the present federal law becomes effective are effective only to the extent that they do not violate the present federal law. Reregistration of religious organizations for which there exist bases for their liquidation or prohibition on their activity stated in point 2 of article 14 of the present federal law will not be carried out. Upon refusal of reregistration in accordance with the indicated bases, the registering agency transmits materials to the court. Religious organizations that do not have documents that confirm their existence in the respective territory for at least fifteen years enjoy the rights of juridical person provided they reregister annually until the achievement of the said fifteen-year period. During the said period such religious organizations do not have the rights stipulated in point 4 of article 3, points 3 and 4 of article 5, point 5 of article 13, point of article 16, points 1 and 2 of article 17, point 2 of article 18 (pertaining to educational institutions and mass media), article 19 and point 2 of article 20 of the present federal law.

4. State reregistration of religious associations, formed before the present federal law becomes effective, must be completed no later than 31 December 1999 in accordance with the requirements of the present federal law. Upon expiration of said period, religious organizations that have not undergone reregistration are subject to liquidation in accordance with judicial procedure upon appeal of the agency that conducts state registration of religious organizations.   [note:  this article was amended 31 March 2000*]

5. From the day of the present federal law's becoming effective, the law of the RSFSR "On Freedom of Religious Professions" (Vedomosti s"ezda narodnykh deputatov RSFSR I verkhovnogo soveta RSFSR, 1990, n 21, st. 240; Sobranie zakonodatel'stva rossiiskoi federatsii, 1995, N. 5, st. 346) and the resolution of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR "On the procedure for implementation of the law of RSFSR 'On freedom of religious professions'" (Vedomosti s"ezda narodnykh deputatov RSFSR i verkhovnogo soveta RSFSR, 1990, N 21, st. 241) are recognized as null and void. (tr. by PDS)
 

*ON INTRODUCTION OF CHANGES INTO POINT 4, ARTICLE 27 OF FEDERAL LAW
Rossiiskaia gazeta, 30 March 2000

Article 1.  Introduce into point 4 of article 27 of the federal law of 26 September 1997 N125-F3  "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" (Collection of Legislation of the Russian Federation, 1997, N. 39, art. 4465) the following changes:

Replace the words "31 December 1999" with the words "31 December 2000";

Word the second sentence in the following manner: "Upon expiration of the specified period of time religious organizations that have not undergone reregistration are subject to liquidation through judicial procedure upon petition by the agency that conducts state registration of religious organizations."

Article 2.  This federal law takes effect on the day of its official pubcation.

Acting President of the Russian Federation,
V. Putin
(tr. by PDS)