RUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT WILL CONSIDER QUESTION OF POSSIBILITY OF CONDUCTING WORSHIP IN A PRIVATE HOME
by Mikhail Telekhov
RAPSI, 4 October 2019
The Russian Constitutional Court will consider on 8 October the question of the possibility of the use by the owner of a parcel of land that is intended for the location of an individual residence for conducting worship services, rituals, and ceremonies, RAPSI was told at the press service of the Constitutional Court.
The claimant is a resident of Rostov oblast, Olga Glamozdinova; she is asking for a verification of the constitutionality of a paragraph of the second article of the Land Code of the RF and of part 1 of article 8.8 of the Code on Administrative Violations of Law of the RF, which establish the responsibility of owners for the use of land not in accordance with its intended use.
The resident of Rostov oblast, Olga Glamozdinova, is a parishioner of the Church of Seventh-Day Adventist Christians in the village of Veselyi. From the materials of the case it follows that as the owner of a residential building and a parcel of land of about a quarter acre, in January 2017 she provided for the free use by the aforementioned church of her home for conducting worship services, rituals, and ceremonies for four hours a week.
"Also the owner gave her consent for including in the Uniform Register of Legal Entities the address of this building as the legal address of the religious organization, for conducting communication with the legal entity, which is not prohibited by the federal law 'On freedom of conscience and religious associations,'" Glamozdinova's appeal states. It is also noted there that this church is small and it does not have any real estate nor a rented office.
The claimant reports that in September 2017, a district department of the Office of the Rosreestr for Rostov oblast held her administratively accountable and fined her 10,000 rubles for the misuse of the land. The Bagaev district court of Rostov oblast and also the Rostov oblast court left the decision of the supervisory office without changes.
In Glamozdinova's opinion, the rules being challenged are inconsistent with articles 28, 35 (part 2), and 55 (part 3) of the constitution of the RF inasmuch as they violate her right to freely own and dispose of her property and also her right to freedom of conscience and religious confession. She thinks that the rules being challenged do not comport with the requirements of specificity, clarity, and unambiguity of a law and of their consistency in the system of effective legal regulation. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 October 2019)
COUNCIL ON HUMAN RIGHTS SENDS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONCLUSION ON CASE OF ADVENTIST CHALLENGING LAND CODE
Website of Council on Human Rights, 3 October 2019
The Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights under the president of the Russian Federation today sent to the Constitutional Court an expert conclusion of the council's permanent commission for scientific and legal expert analysis and for development of alternative means to resolve conflicts, which was prepared in connection with the appeal by a parishioner of the Church of Seventh-Day Adventist Christians from Rostov oblast, Olga Glamozdinova, who is challenging the rules of the Land Code and the Code on Administrative Violations of Law, on the basis of which she was fined 10,000 rubles for use of land for other than its intended purpose, since worship services were conducted in a building located on it.
Glamozdinova's appeal will be considered on 8 October.
A member of the Council on Human Rights, Vladimir Riakhovsky, commented on the problem.
"Part 2 of article 16 of the law 'On freedom of conscience. . .' indicates that worship services and other religious rituals and ceremonies are conducted without hindrance not only in liturgical buildings but also in other buildings belonging to religious organizations and in residential premises. This rule is not consistent with rules of land legislation and with legislation concerning administrative violations of law, which permit agencies of the Federal Service of State Registration of Cadastre and Cartography to hold to administratively account religious organizations and believers who own nonresidential and residential premises and provide them for conducting worship services. There is here legal imprecision, which gives rise to violation of constitutional rights of believers. I am not talking about the fact that the rule concerning the possibility of religious rituals in residences may turn out to be 'dead'—after all, a parcel of land under a residence cannot have a religious purpose. A more general question also arises which must also be resolved by the Constitutional Court: how far do permissible limits on the interference of agencies of public authority extend into the sphere of the conduct of worship services?" (tr. by PDS, posted 4 October 2019)
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT WILL REVIEW APPEAL OF EVANGELICAL BELIEVERS ON USE OF LAND
Website of the ROSKhVE, 4 October 2019
On 8 October 2019, in St. Petersburg, a session of the Russian Constitutional Court will be held devoted to testing the constitutionality of a paragraph of the second article 42 of the Land Code of the RF and part 1 of article 8.8 of the Code on Administrative Violations of Law of the RF. It is these points of the law that have served as the basis for a whole series of cases bringing believers and religious organizations to administrative accountability for improper use of the land under residential buildings during the conduct of worship services inside them.
The session of the Constitutional Court will be open.
The immediate reason for considering the case is an appeal by a parishioner of the Church of Seventh-Day Adventist Christians, Olga Glamozdinova. As the owner of a residential building and a parcel of land, in January 2017 she made available her house for conducting worship services for four hours per week and she agreed to the inclusion in the Uniform State Register of Legal Entities of the address of this building as the legal address of the religious organization. In September 2017, the district department of the Administration of Rosreestr for Rostov oblast held Olga Glamozdinova administratively accountable and fined her 10,000 rubles for use of land for unintended purposes. Moreover, judicial proceedings subsequent to this left this decision in force.
It turns out that the standards by which people are held accountable—and the case of Olga Glamozdinova is far from unique—are not consistent with the constitution of the RF inasmuch as they violate the right freely to own and dispose of one's property and also the right to freedom of conscience and religious confession.
The rights of believers will be defended by the distinguished attorney of Russia and managing partner of the Slavic Legal Center Vladimir Riakhovsky and an attorney of the Slavic Legal Center, Sergei Chugunov, who shared his comments with the ROSKhVE [Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith] press service:
"The problem with holding believers and religious organizations administratively accountable for misuse of land under residential buildings while conducting worship services inside them is rather surprising, since it is not connected with any changes in the land legislation.
"However now, looking back, I think that the start of this problem may be connected with the fact that in 2016 the 'Yarovaya Package' introduced a standard into the Housing Code prohibiting the transfer of residential premises to nonresidential premises for purposes of conducting religious activity. And after this there began the prosecution for conducting worship services in residential buildings. As a result of this, believers conducting their worship services in residential buildings find themselves in a stalemate—they cannot assemble and the premises cannot be reclassified.
"Therefore I believe that this is a deliberate strategy that somebody dreamed up in order to suppress the activity of religious minorities, especially protestants, whom this problem affects most of all. Moreover, such a practice has been extended not only to residential premises but also to other buildings and premises in which religious organizations conduct their worship services. Conducting services in these buildings also is regarded by the oversight agencies as the use of a parcel of land in ways for which it is not intended. I hope that the Russian Constitutional Court, in reviewing our appeal, will protect the right of citizens to freedom of religious confession from unjustified restrictions."
Valery Dmitrievich Zorkin will preside in the proceedings. Liudmila Mikhailovna Zharkova will be the judge rapporteur. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 October 2019)
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