REPORT CONCERNING THE COURSE OF REVIEW IN THE STATE DUMA OF THE DRAFT OF THE FEDERAL LAW "ON AMENDMENTS AND SUPPLEMENTS IN THE RSFSR LAW 'ON FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS CONFESSIONS' MADE TO THE COMMISSION ON AFFAIRS OF RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION GOVERNMENT

Moscow 20 June. (ITAR-TASS) On Monday 23 June a review is scheduled by the State Duma on third reading of the draft of the federal law "On Amendments and Supplements in the RSFSR Law 'On Freedom of Religious Confessions.'" This was reported today to the Commission on Affairs of Religions Associations of the Russian federation government which met in Moscow under the presidency of vice premier Oleg Sysuev. The vice president of the commission Andrei Sebentsov reminded the members of the working group that the law draft was adopted on second reading on 18 June.

At present, he said, linguistic, grammatical, and juridical corrections are being made. If the State Duma gives its approval on Monday, then on 2 July the document has a chance to come before a regular session of the Council of the Federation. After this the law draft will go for approval by the president of Russia. Sebentsov said that the new text of the law draft has been improved in many ways.

Thus, finally the question about exemption from the military draft for religious clergy has been resolved.

The provisions for religious organizations to receive all-Russian status has been clarified: it can be granted only if an organization has operated within the Russian federation for at least fifty years and has associated groups in no fewer than half of the subject regions of the federation, or at least in three subject regions within the boundaries of local cultural instituions. All of these provisions respect the interests of traditional religions.

In the new text of the draft of the law, it was reported, the criteria have been made more precise for determining the illegality of the activity of a religious organization, and questions regarding ownership and use of property belonging to state and municipal institutions have been clarified. Essential changes have been made in the text and regulations respecting representation of foreign religious organizations in Russia. Whereas under the original law they were able to operate autonomously, now their representation can be established only by association with a Russian religious organization

With regard to schools and religion an innovation also is provided for: there is the possibility for conducting classes on religious topics, in accordance with the wish of children and their parents and with consent of the administration, but only on an extracurricular basis.

20.06.97