Ukrainian parliament tries new approach to Russian church


RISU, 13 July 2017


On Wednesday, 12 July 2017, the parliamentary Committee on Affairs of Culture and Spirituality supported draft law No. 5309, sponsored by people's deputies of a number of fractions: the National Front (Brichenko, Vysotsky, Lapin), BPP (Briginets), Self-Help (Markevich) and Fatherland (Krulko). The deputies recommended adoption of the draft law on first reading for subsequent improvement and adoption as a whole.


The document suggests introducing changes in the current Ukrainian law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations." Thus, in particular the deputies want to change the pertinent law with a provision about a change in name for those religious organizations whose administrative center is located in an aggressor country. The lawmakers have adopted the goal of "guaranteeing society complete and trustworthy information" with respect to religious organizations in Ukraine.


We note that earlier in the Verkhovna Rada draft law No. 1244 had been registered with a similar rule, although at the time the deputies pointed to the obligation for all religious organizations whose centers are located outside the borders of Ukraine to indicate the full name of their center. Now such a rule is proposed only for those confessions whose centers are located in Russia.


It is important that in the draft law that was approved there is specified a number of characteristics of "the membership of a religious organization in a religious association," which were not in the previous draft law. The deputies propose three indicators, any one of which would be able to define the subordination of a religious organization to an administrative center in Russia.


First: there is a reference to a foreign center in the charter of the religious organization itself that is operating in Ukraine.


Second: there is an indication in the charter of the foreign religious center that religious organizations in Ukraine are its members.


Third: Ukrainian representatives are members of the administrative organ of the foreign religious center.


It is noteworthy that a negative view of this draft law began to be expressed by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow patriarchate. On one hand, representatives of this church criticize the document for its interference in the internal affairs of the church. On the other hand, the UPTs has frequently declared that it is not the Moscow patriarchate, which resulted in the letter of the synod of this church of 27 May 2017, where in particular there is the following statement:


"We stress once again that the administrative center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which according to its charter is separate and independent in its administration and structure, is located in Kiev. It is in Kiev that all decisions connected with the activity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are made. One should not call us the 'Moscow church' simply because we maintain the thousand-year spiritual tradition which originates from the baptism by Vladimir of Kievan Rus in the blessed waters of the Dnepr and unites millions of believers who today are living both in Moscow and in Minsk and in Kishinev and in many other cities and states throughout the world."


Despite the statement of the head of the legal department of the UPTs, Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, and in accordance with the standards of the draft law, the UPTs can theoretically be placed in the category of a religious organization whose administrative center is located in an aggressor country.


Regarding the first point, the charter of the UPTs, part I, point 5, indicates that the UPTs is a self-administering part of the RPTs.


As regards the second point, the charter of the RPTs, chapter XI, point 18 notes that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a self-administering church [within the RPTs] with rights of broad autonomy.


As to the third point, the same charter of the RPTs, chapter V, point 4, emphasizes that the Metropolitan of Kiev is a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the RPTs, which in its turn is the administrative organ of that church.


Also according to draft law No. 5309, churches that fall under the purview of this law are given three months for re-registration of the charter because of a change in their name. A separate point of the document forbids representatives of a religious organization whose center is located in an aggressor country to be regular chaplains in the armed forces of Ukraine and the National Guard. Incidentally, in the latter there already is officially a juridical safeguard for access to the post of chaplain by representatives of religious organizations whose centers are in an aggressor country. This is stated in point 19 of the Statutes on Service of Military Clergy, confirmed by order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs No. 205 of 24 May 2016.


Also the standing committee supported draft law No. 6642, sponsored by deputies Ungurian, Tymchuk, Elensky, Prodan, Logvinsky, and others. The draft is intended to simplify the procedure of registration of the charter of a religious organization. As indicated in the explanatory note to the initiative, the deputies propose to eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles and also to release churches from paying 460 grivnas as an administrative fee. Thus, this substantially will simplify the process of required re-registration of religious societies.


We recall that on 18 May, the Verkhovna Rada was supposed to consider two "church bills." On that day the UPTsMP led the faithful to protest at the walls of parliament. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 July 2017)

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