Moscow patriarchate complains about alleged government negligence   


Religious organizations were not granted a moratorium on payment of taxes and of premiums on required pension, medical, and social insurance

TASS, 18 August 2021


Religious organizations were not able to receive a portion of measures of state support that was granted to other socially significant non-commercial organizations during the period of pandemic, the director of the legal department of the Moscow patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Hegumenia Ksenia, reported.


"We consider that at the present time, religious organizations are being infringed in their rights to get state support, compared with other non-commercial organizations," the hegumenia said during an on-line conference in the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation regarding support for religious organizations during the pandemic.


She explained that religious organizations were not granted a reprieve in the payment of taxes and insurance contributions for required pension, medical, and social insurance, as was done in November 2020 for social non-commercial organizations [NCO] and also organizations that are listed in the register of victims of the spread of the coronavirus.  Amendments in the pertinent order of the government permitted organizations to receive an extension on payments of taxes, advance payments, and insurance premiums for a period of from three to nine months.


In addition, religious organizations did not have the opportunity to receive a "salary loan" that is being granted by banks at the expense of state subsidies, the hegumenia added.


"We repeatedly appealed—His Holiness the patriarch appealed and the Inter-Religious Council of Russia and other bodies appealed—for the extension of this measure of state support for all religious organizations, because in connection with the pandemic we suffered a constriction in the number of parishioners, and consequently in the number of voluntary donations, which are the main source of livelihood of religious societies. And this question also was presented to a governmental commission and a corresponding instruction was given to cover all religious organizations with the 'salary loan.' We still have not seen any drafts of legal acts nor of the adoption of pertinent legal acts," the director of the legal department noted.


She emphasized that the "salary loan" was granted to "all private schools and all charitable organizations, in addition to the register of non-commercial organizations." At the same time, religious organizations—and especially the Russian Orthodox Church—are providing various forms of support to the needy during the pandemic and volunteer movements are arranging aid for the sick.


At the same conference, Marina Brovtseva, the deputy director of the Department for Development of the NCO sphere of the Department for the Development of the Social Sphere and NCO Sector of the Ministry of Economic Development, responded that the ministry "did not have criteria that infringed any kind of organization" that was included in the register of organizations needing support during the pandemic. However with regard to the "salary credit" she noted that whether an organization was granted such a credit or not was "the right of the banks." She also recommended to organizations that make a claim to receive state support that they "carefully examine" the criteria for their inclusion in the register.


"We have more than 33,000 organizations that have received an extension on taxes and fees. . . . The register (of organizations suffering from the pandemic—TASS note) includes 93 religious organizations—that we were able to immediately identify as religious organizations. And it so happens that our register, in general, includes all socially oriented non-commercial organizations on common bases, which is, in our view, completely fair," Brovtseva added.


In its turn, the Public Chamber promised to reflect the opinion of the hegumenia in the minutes of the conference and to send necessary suggestions to the relevant agencies. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 August 2021)

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