for execution by agencies of justice of the oversight functions with regard to religious organizations.
The federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," which came into effect 1 October 1997, assigned to agencies of justice which had registered a religious organization (hereafter called the registering agencies) the right of oversight for their observance of their charters relative to the goals and procedures of their activity.
Inasmuch as the federal law as adopted does not contain specific indications of the forms and methods of the execution by registering agencies of the oversight function with regard to religious organization, then in the practice of applying the law it is necessary to be guided not only by provisions of the law itself but also by appropriate provisions of the civil code of RF, the federal law "On Noncommercial Organizations," and by other acts of current legislation of the Russian federation.
The tasks and object of oversight
Oversight of the activity of religious organizations is effecting for the purpose of guaranteeing thorough observance by them of the constitution of the Russian federation, existing legislation, and prevention and suppression of illegal manifestation in the activity of religious organizations.
According to point 2, article 25 of the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," oversight of the activity of religious organizations on the part of registering agencies must be effected in two directions:
oversight of the observance of the charter of a religious organization relative to the goals of its activity;
oversight of the observance of the charter of a religious organization relative to the procedures of its activity.
In conducting oversight of the observance of the charter of a religious organization relative to the procedure of its activity the registering agencies must give special attention to:
observance of the charter's provisions regarding structure and administration of a religious organization, the activity of its administrative offices, competence of decisions made, and other provisions that do not pertain to the internal (canonical) regulations of the religious organization;
observance of the established procedure and practices for making changes and additions to the charter, and the reorganization and liquidation of a religious organization and other actions that have legal consequences;
timely reporting by a religious organization to the registering agency regarding changes in data incorporated into the joint state register of legal entities;
timely presentation by the religious organization of the annual information about the continuation of its activity in accordance with procedure established by the law.
Violation of the established procedure of the activity and administration of a religious organization is grounds for declaring the decisions of a religious organization made in violation of the charter ineffective and, in cases stipulated by the law (state registration of changes and additions to the charter, reorganization and liquidation of a religious organization, changes in the date of the state register of legal entities) will entail the rejection by the registering agency of the respective application by the religious organization.
Failure to submit requested information to the registering agency within a period of three years constitutes grounds for the registering agency to file suit in court for a declaration that the religious organization has ceased its activity.
Oversight of the observance by a religious organization of the charter relative to the goals of its activity is implies confirmation by the registering agency of the conformity of the actual activity of the religious organization to the goals and tasks declared in its charter.
In accordance with the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" (art. 8) religious organizations are defined as organizations formed for joint profession and dissemination of faith. Besides this basic goal (profession and dissemination of faith) religious organizations have the right of engaging in other activity, in accordance with the procedure established by the law, which conforms to its goals and is not forbidden by law. At the same time the object and goals of the activity of a religious organization as a noncommercial organizations must be defined by its charter (art. 53, part 1, civil code of RF).
Consequently, activity of a religious organization the violates its charter goals includes:
the loss by a religious organization during the performance of its activity of the character and signs of a religious organization (joint conduct of divine services, other religious rituals and ceremonies, teaching of religion, religious education, etc.)
performance of kinds of activity forbidden to religious organizations (participation in the activity of political parties and political movements, providing them material and other help, election campaigning, creation of structural subdivisions within state and municipal institutions and in other places not provided by law, engagement in business activity not conforming to the charter goals, sale of humanitarian and technical aid that has been acquired, etc.)
performance of activity, including medical, educational, and other kinds, without the proper official permit (license);
performance of activity not provided for in the charter of the religious organization;
performance of activity in which the name and confessional affiliation of a religious organization is concealed;
performance of activity entailing infringement on the person and rights of citizens and other violations of the constitution and existing legislation of RF.
Organization of Oversight
In effecting the oversight of the observance of the charter of a religious organization, registering agencies must not replace agencies of the procuracy and other state agencies and responsible persons who perform supervisory and oversight functions in accordance with their jurisdictions established by law. It is worthwhile to carry out inspection procedures on the activity of religious organizations in conjunction with the appropriate supervisory and oversight agencies on the basis of prearrangement with them.
Inspection of the charter activity of a religious organization may be carried out by planned procedure on the initiative of the registering agency as well as in cases of the emergence of circumstances that require the conduct of an oversight inspection of the activity of a religious organization:
upon declarations, complaints, and other appeals from citizens and organizations;
upon publication and notices in the press and other means of mass communication;
upon authorization of the Ministry of Justice and other agencies of the state and administration;
in other cases provided for in the existing legislation.
In accordance with the constitutional principle of the separation of religious associations from the state, registering agencies must respect the internal regulations of religious organizations and do not have the right of interfering in the activity of religious organizations if it is not in violation of the law. They are not permitted
to conduct a inspection in religious organizations during divine services, performance of religious rituals, ceremonies, and other worship events;
to violate the established norms of conduct inside prayer buildings and premises;
to offend the religious sentiments and convictions of citizens.
Illegal hindrance of the activity of religious organizations or the performance of religious rituals entails legal liability (art. 193, KoAP RSFSR, art. 148 UK [criminal code] RF).
It is necessary to inform the leaders of a religious organization of an upcoming inspection.
Direct performance of an inspection entails the following actions on the part of the registering agency:
study of materials of the registration file of the religious organization, of the declarations and appeals of citizens held by the registering agency, and of reports in the press and other means of mass communication pertaining to the activity of the given organization;
examination of information and data connected with the activity conducted by the religious organization, which exists in the law enforcement, tax, and other state offices;
dispatch of their representatives for participation in the events conducted by the religious organization, with their consent;
acquisition of explanations from the leaders and members of the religious organization on matters pertaining to the charter activity of the religious organization;
performance of other actions within the bounds of the jurisdiction of the registering agency as established by law.
Adoption of measures on the basis of the results of inspections
The results of the inspection are presented in the form of an affidavit added to the registration file kept in the registering agency. The executive body of the religious organization is informed about the results of the inspection.
In cases where evidence emerges during the inspection of cases of the religious organization's performing actions that violate its charter goals or exiting legislation, the registering agency informs the executive body of the religious organization about these violations and gives suggestions about their elimination or delivers to the religious organization a written warning.
In cases where the uncovered violations have the character of an administrative violation of law, the registering agency transmits information about the violation and materials of the inspection to the agency or responsibly person who is authorized to review the case of administrative illegality.
In cases where the uncovered violations display signs of criminality, materials of the inspection are sent to the procuracy.
In cases of systematic performance by the religious organization of activity that violates its charter goals and where there have been more than two warnings in writing, the registering agency submits to a court an application for the liquidation of said religious organization (art. 33, federal law "On Noncommercial Organizations").
Department for affairs of public and religious associations
(tr. by PDS)