Experts: Passed Bill No 4128 threatens religious freedom
The adoption of bill No 4128 immediately as law, without a second reading and despite numerous expert comments, threatens the religious freedom in Ukraine.
Despite the appeal to finalize the draft law on second reading, which was sent to the Verkhovna Rada by the Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Religious Freedom Alexander Zayets, Chairman of the AUCCRO Jacob Dov Bleich, and others, on January 17, 2019, the Ukrainian Parliament hastily adopted the redrafted bill as law, and, without any consultation with religious organizations, introduced a new procedure for their registration. Experts named at least 16 significant comments on the adopted Law, according to the Institute for Religious Freedom.
The expert community drew attention to the fact that the new version of the bill appeared on the Verkhovna Rada’s website only on the night before the voting. At the same time, the Committee considered it at its meeting on Wednesday, prior to the publication of the text, and recommended that the Parliament adopt it as law right away – without a second reading and consultation with the religious and expert community. Nikolai Kniazhitsky, chairman of the Committee on Culture and Spirituality, called comments on the draft law fake and unfounded.
The adopted law provides new requirements for the registration and re-registration of religious organizations and introduces a “single window” for filing documents. Experts see one of the main problems of the Law is the introduction of a new re-registration of religious organizations due to the requirement to bring their statutes into line with the new Law within a year after its entry into force. It is noted that the re-registration is not going to be cheap for believers since each signature on the new edition of the statute and on the minutes of the general meeting must be notarized.
Among the main comments to the adopted law, the experts point out the following:
– The provision of the Law that “the decision to change the subordination and the corresponding amendments to the statute are made by at least 2/3 of the number of members of the religious community” will be impossible to implement in practice if we are talking about religious communities without fixed membership, with the functions of general assemblies performed by parish councils or similar bodies;
– The requirement of the Law that “the decision to change the subordination and corresponding amendments to the statute is certified by the signatures of the members of the relevant religious community present at such meetings” cannot be implemented in numerous religious communities with tens, hundreds or thousands of members, since signatures must be notarized, which implies payment of a fee for certifying each signature;
– The law requires submitting for registration a list of participants of the general meeting together with the new version of the religious organization’s statute, which, on the one hand, is an unjustified interference of the state in the internal affairs of the religious community and violation of believers’ right to confidentiality of their religious views, and, on the other hand, an aggravating condition for maintaining the status of a legal entity;
– Monasteries, religious brotherhoods, missions, religious educational institutions are required to submit documents confirming the right of ownership or use of the premises at the address of their location, which is an unduly aggravating obstacle to their religious activities;
– The law requires submitting an “original or duly certified copy of the statute’s version valid on the date of submission of documents”, which is impossible for religious organizations whose statutes the State Registrar published in the electronic version on the Ministry of Justice portal without providing the certified original.
As the UOJ reported, the head of the UOC Legal Department Protopriest Alexander Bakhov believes that bill No 4128 adopted by the Verkhovna Rada, which differs significantly from the previous version, will create an “anarchy” in the registration of communities.