Russian parliament delays consideration of controversial changes in religion law


RIA Novosti, 26 September 2020


The draft law "On introducing changes into federal law 'On freedom of conscience and religious associations'" can be adopted only in the event of its approval by the traditional confessions, declared the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Ilarion.


This week the council of the State Duma made the decision to postpone the first reading of the draft law "On introducing changes into federal law 'On freedom of conscience and religious associations,'" which was scheduled for 22 September. Among other things, the draft provides for clergy and "personnel of religious organizations," who receive religious education abroad, to get mandatory recertification in Russian educational institutions; otherwise they will not be able to engage in teaching and religious activity.


This rule evoked a negative reaction on the part of Russian Buddhists, who traditionally receive religious education abroad. Concern with regard to the draft law also was expressed by several Muslim, Jewish, protestant, and Catholic organizations.


"This law should be adopted only if it is approved by the traditional confessions of the Russian Federation," Metropolitan Ilarion said in a broadcast on the Rossiia 24 television channel.


According to the explanatory note attached to the draft law, the main purpose of the proposed changes consists in preventing religious activity by "clergy who have studied abroad and who are spreading an ideology of religious extremism."


The metropolitan said that it is the practice of the Russian church that a person who received religious education abroad "as a rule goes through a certain recertification in church educational institutions," while until recently the majority of the ecclesiastical educational institution of the RPTs have not had state accreditation.


The main goal of the law, in his opinion, is to prevent foreign-educated extremist preachers from preaching in Russia. "This is why a certain form of state accreditation is required for such preachers and a certain form of confessional accreditation, so that such a person will receive the right to preach within a traditional confession," Metropolitan Ilarion stressed.


He said that state recertification is necessary "in order to occupy educational positions within structures that are recognized by the government." (tr. by PDS, posted 26 September 2020)

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