Religious organizations acquire shield from some government intrusion


Institute of Religion and Politics, 18 June 2021


The State Duma adopted on second and third readings a law requiring credit organizations to provide to the Russian Ministry of Justice information about the operations and accounts of non-commercial organizations (N.C.O.s), with the exception of religious ones, RIA Novosti reports.


The document was worked out by the government for purposes of improving federal governmental oversight of the activity of non-commercial organizations conducted by the Ministry of Justice and its territorial branches.


The law provides for the inclusion of the ministry in the list of governmental agencies that have the right to receive from credit organizations information constituting banking secrecy. According to it, information about the banking operations and accounts of N.C.O.s, with the exception of religious ones, will be provided only upon requests from the head of the Ministry of Justice or his deputies, while it imposes a prohibition on disclosing to third parties information received from banks.


The original version of the draft law provided the right of making such a request to heads of territorial branches of the ministry also. However, in the context of the second reading, that rule was dropped from the text of the document, and the deputies also decided not to apply the action of the law to religious organizations.


Obtaining information from credit organizations concerning the operations and accounts will permit assessment of the accuracy of the documents provided by N.C.O.s in order to determine the conformity of their activity to their charter purposes, including the disbursement of financial resources and the use of other property, the cabinet of ministers thinks.


The law is supposed to take legal effect ten days after its official publication, RIA Novosti writes. However, before that, according to the existing procedures of legislative activity in Russia, the law is supposed to be approved by the upper chamber of parliament, the Federation Council, and then be signed by the Russian president, and only then comes its publication and taking legal effect.


Over two decades, these steps have proceeded without hesitation and have begun to seem some kind of formality; but on 15 June 2021, the president imposed a veto on one of the laws (about expanding the responsibility of news media for spreading false information) and he returned it to the State Duma.


Previously, as Kommersant recalls, the president had imposed a veto only four times in 2000 and once in 2001. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 June 2021)

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