UOC hierarch: Bill #5309 is an ill-advised case

Bishop Victor of Baryshevka, head of the UOC Representation to European International Organizations

The law on renaming religious organizations is a clear disregard for European legal values on the part of Ukrainian law-makers.

The Ukrainian authorities made an ill-considered political step when they disregarded the norms of international law and adopted the law on renaming religious organizations, said Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka, head of the UOC Representative Office to European International Organization to the Information and Education Department of the UOC.

“Even the Main Scientific and Expert Department of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine negatively characterized this bill and recommended to reject it,” Bishop Viktor recalled. “Quite eloquent is a quotation from paragraph 3, clause II of the conclusion of the department, which notes that “<...> the provisions of the draft law contain signs of incompatibility with the Constitution of Ukraine, which excludes the possibility of establishing special requirements regarding the name and content of the statutes (regulations) of individual religious organizations (associations)."

The UOC hierarch stressed that the Constitution of Ukraine has the highest legal force, and therefore the new law cannot annul the constitutional rights of citizens of Ukraine.

According to the head of the UOC Representation to European International Organizations, bill No 5309 "will for long become a black spot in the history of Ukrainian parliamentarism and appear at the international level as an example of a thoughtless political step."

If the pressure of the authorities on the canonical Church steps up, the UN Human Rights Council, the European Court of Human Rights and other international human rights organizations will receive more and more complaints, Bishop Victor commented on the possible scenario.

He noted that the legislative act adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine deals only with those organizations whose governing centre is located in the territory of the aggressor state. Since the UOC lead center is located in Kiev, bill No. 5309 de jure cannot be extended to the canonical church, Bishop Victor explained. He added that the pressure of the authorities on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church suggests the likelihood of politicians trying to apply this law specifically to it.

If state officials insist on the application of this law to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, then, according to Vladyka Victor, Ukraine will face lengthy court proceedings. After all, the UOC communities have the full right to challenge the actions of state officials and state bodies in court.

Earlier, Vladyka Victor noted that bill No 5309 not only violates the Constitution of Ukraine but also puts a stick in the wheels of the state’s euro-integration processes, since it runs counter to the fundamental rights and freedoms of any civilized society.

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