The Verkhovna Rada adopted the scandalous draft law on the transfer of religious communities

The Verkhovna Rada adopted the scandalous draft law on the transfer of religious communities

On January 17th the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the law of Ukraine No. 4128/D on the introduction of amendments to some laws of Ukraine concerning the subordination of religious organizations and the procedure of the state registration of religious organizations with the status of a legal entity.

Deputies adopted this draft law with a violation of regulations and only at the second attempt. During the first vote 224 deputies voted in favour. And during the repeated vote, which took place without a repeated discussion of the draft law, 229 People's Deputies voted in favour of its adoption.

Draft law No. 4128 was initially registered in the parliament in 2016. On December 20th 2018 it was included in the agenda of the sessional day of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (VRU), but voting was postponed.

On January 15th 2019 the speaker of the VRU Andriy Parubiy tasked the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Culture and Spirituality with finishing and improving the draft law on changing the subordination of religious communities, since according to the speaker of the VRU "it does not take into consideration all procedural and legal nuances". The next day, on January 16th, the Committee on Culture and Spirituality approved a new version of draft law No. 4128 (on changing the subordination of religious communities), having given it the number 4128/D.

According to adopted draft law No. 4128/D, a change of subordination requires that amendments are made to the charter. For this purpose it is necessary to convene a meeting in accordance with the charter of the community. The meeting must meet the requirements of the charter and have quorum. In order to make a decision on a transfer two-thirds of the members of the community must now vote in favour of it and sign the decision personally.

In addition, the draft law changes the procedure of registering religious organizations. From now on only the state authority for religions and the relevant departments of regional state administrations, without the participation of the Ministry of Justice, as was required earlier, will register religious organizations.

Human rights activists note that the approach proposed by draft law No. 4128 is the unjustified interference of the state in the internal affairs of religious communities and can lead to violations of Ukraine’s international obligations in the sphere of ensuring freedom of worship and religion.

Lawyers remind that these remarks to the Ukrainian authorities were already expressed in the past by the European Court of Human Rights in the decision from 2007 in the case "Svyato-Mykhaylivska Parafiya v. Ukraine" (Decision No. 77703/01).

In the decision on this case, which Ukraine lost in the European Court of Justice, it was said that "the right to freedom of religion excludes any powers of the state to evaluate the legitimacy of a method of expressing religious views".

In addition, as the human rights activists of "Uspishna Varta" noted on Facebook, draft law No. 4128 on the transfer of religious communities is discriminatory against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and violates the equality of faiths before the law. This draft law promotes the direct exertion of pressure on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and can lead to violations of religious and civil peace in Ukraine, as is evidenced by a number of precedents all over Ukraine.

Thus, on January 16th in the village of Olenovka in the Chernigov region the Svyato-Voznesensky temple of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was captured by priests of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) who were accompanied by "activists" from the “C14” group. In addition, during the past week human rights activists recorded more cases of demands being forced upon the communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church concerning their transition to the OCU, as well as the facts of communities of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church being evicted from their temples in the village of Vorsovka in the Zhytomyr region, the village of Krasnovolya in the Manevychi district (Volyn region), in the Chernovtsi diocese, and in the village of Puzhaykovo in the Balta district of the Odessa region.

Human rights activists note that all incidents were accompanied by instances of temples and cult buildings of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church being vandalised, as was the case in particular in Uman, where vandals on January 10th profaned a temple in honor of the icon of the Mother of God “Gorgoepikoos”.

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