Moscow patriarchate offers suggestions on religion law
Metaphrasis 30 August - 5 September 1996

From Patriarch Alexis II

14 June1996

Mr.G.Seleznyov,
Chairman, State Duma,
Federal Assembly of the RF

Dear Gennady Nikolayevich, I beg to inform You that I find it absolutely necessary to add the following text to the draft law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations which is to be discussed by the State Duma.

'The government of the RF and the executive branches of the Subjects of the RF shall have the right, following requests from religious organizations (associations), to provide to them tax and other privileges according to the legislation of the RF. The Law should envisage also that 'entrepreneurial activities of religious organizations (associations) which are not prohibited by the RF legislation and conform to their charter purposes, as well as the income resulting from the real estate provide by the State for free use of unlimited duration, shall not be subject to taxation according to the legislation of the RF.' I hope for attentive and favorable consideration of our request and that the legislative expression thereof will serve to a normalization of relations between the State and religious associations and will help our Church in the restoration of dozens f demolished churches,

Respectfully Yours,
Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia

x x x

From Metropolitan Kirill, 10 July

COMMENTS AND PROPOSALS FOR THE BILL ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS

1. Article 3.5 should be supplemented by the following text: "Offense of religious feelings of the citizens, as well as desecration of objects, buildings and places that are venerated by a given religion, shall be punishable by law. It shall be prohi ited to use religious buildings for purposes insulting to the feelings of the faithful.'
Commentary: This wording is necessary since at the present time many religious buildings are used not according to their destination, which often is offensive to the feelings of worshippers (use of churches for restaurants, bars, casinos, etc,).

2. In Article 4.1 the following text should be taken out: 'Introduction of any privileges or limitations for one or several religious organizations shall be inadmissible.'
Commentary: Use of the expression 'any privileges or limitations' may result in too a wide interpretation of this rule. It would suffice to limit it to the constitutional principles as set out in the first two sentences of this Article.

3. The following to be inserted in Article 4.3: 'The State shall finance and provide services in material and technical provision of the teaching of the general education subjects in schools established by religious organizations which are properly r gistered .'
Commentary: It would be worthwhile to reproduce here the pertinent text of the RF Law 'On Education', in order to draw attention to this point.

4. Article 4.5 should read as follows: 'Following requests from the parents or persons in charge of the children, and following the agreement of the children who study in State and municipal general schools, the administration of the above, followin a notification of the local (municipal) educational authority, shall have the right to allow registered religious organizations to conduct religious education.'
Commentary: The alternative wording of 'extracurricular' may be interpreted as providing the premises exclusively during the summer vacations.

5. Article 9.4.1 should read : 'For a religious organization to be registered by the State, its founders, numbering not less than 10 persons having a permanent residence in the RF should apply to the Federal or other Justice Department.'
Commentary: This is to preclude a landslide of fictitious religious organizations. The persons may have RF or other citizenship.

6. Article 11.1 should read as follows: 'Foreign religious organizations shall have the right to have their (missions) representatives in the RF, attached to Russian religious organizations which are registered according to this Law. The said mission (representatives) shall be subject to registration in the order established by the government of the RF according to this Law and other Federal laws. The missions (representatives) of foreign religious organizations, as well as foreign clerical persons coming to Russia at the invitation of Russian religious organizations, shall have the right to any religious activities exclusively through their h sting organization. Independent religious activities shall be prohibited to foreign religious organizations.'
Commentary: This wording should allow the State to provide for an orderly manner of activities of foreign clerics in the territory of the RF.

7. Article 15 to be supplemented with 15.3 of the following content: 'Objects of religious destination are objects which are used by citizens in the process of the realization of their right to freedom of conscience. Objects of cult destination are o jects used in Divine Service, religious rituals and ceremonies.'
Commentary: Many legal documents of the RF, primarily taxation documents, make use of the expressions 'objects of religious destination' and 'objects of cult destination' while none of them defines them.

8. Article 16 to be supplemented with 16.3 of the following content 'The State shall render material and other aid to religious organizations in their charity, cultural and educational activities.'
Commentary: The religious organizations find themselves now in extremely difficult financial and material circumstances under which the said support is clearly necessary for their activities.

9. Article 21 to be supplemented with 21.2 of the following content: 'To engage in entrepreneurial activities, a religious organization shall have the right to create commercial organizations of any structural and legal type. Commercial organizations which have been founded solely by a religious organization, shall be considered as enterprises of a religious organization.'
Commentary: Since the adoption of the new Civil Code of the RF, enterprises of religious organizations have been excluded from the category of structural and legal forms of commercial organizations. But this term continues to be used in certain legis ative documents. The proposal is intended to fill the gap, account being taken of the active civil legislation.

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