Lawyer: Bill No 4128-d leaves possibility for protection of UOC communities

Head of the NGO “Public Advocacy” Oleg Denisov

Bill No. 4128-d, adopted by the Verkhovna Rada, has been redrafted so that it leaves protection possibilities for the UOC communities, human rights activists say.

The shortcomings of the previous version of the law (bill No 4128) were partially eliminated in the new document, reports the head of the NGO “Public Advocacy” Oleg Denisov.

According to him, unlike bill No. 4128, the new Law does not provide for “the right to self-identification”, when any person who came to the meeting could vote “for” the transfer of the community to another denomination.

Now the Law clearly stipulates that "the religious community, at its own discretion, accepts new ones and excludes existing members of the community in the manner established by its statute".

Thus, the expert believes that no outsider is now entitled to vote at general meetings of religious organizations.

In addition, the Law provides that the decision to change the subordination and amend the statute is made only by the general meeting of the religious community, which can be convened only by members of the community.

“Thus, neither officials nor representatives of public organizations can any longer make voting lists, doorbell parishioners' houses and convene them for meetings, such actions can be done only by persons specified in the statutes of religious organizations and only in the established order,” explains Denisov.

It is also important that at least 2/3 of the actual number of community members must vote for changing the subordination of the community and they must sign the decision in person.

As a result, the UOC communities can really expect that, subject to the implementation of this law in practice, the number of raider seizures of churches will significantly decrease, the human rights activist said.

O. Denisov explains that almost all the UOC communities have long made up real lists of members of their communities and fixed them in their written protocols, which is a guarantee that people “from outside” will not be able to appropriate membership in the community.

He urges those communities that have not held general meetings of community members and made such lists yet to do so.

Unfortunately, according to the expert, the new law has a number of other shortcomings that may complicate the situation of the communities, especially in connection with the need to “bring the statutes in accordance with the Law within a year”, which provides for the actual re-registration of the communities.

However, the lawyer explains, the Law provides that if such a re-registration is not carried out, the statutes will lose their force. That is, even if the community is unable to re-register its statute (including due to the impossibility of fulfilling the requirements of Law No. 5309), its documents will remain valid.

“Also, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the current statutes of religious organizations of the UOC do not contradict Law No 4128-d and do not need to be specifically amended,” says the lawyer.

He suggests that the reason for such a dramatic change in the position of the authors of Law No 4128-d, especially of deputy V. Yelensky, was lobbying for changes to the bill by influential Catholic, Jewish and other faiths interested in the inviolability of their own assets.

As a result, UOC believers, along with other denominations of Ukraine, has so far managed to get out of an apparent raider strike, he said.

On January 17, 2019, the Verkhovna Rada adopted bill No 4128 “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine ‘On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations’ (regarding the change of subordination by religious communities)”.

Bill No 4128 was adopted with gross violations of the regulations of the Rada, and the Speaker ignored the MPs’ request to hear the opinion of the Council of Churches.

The adopted law suits only one confession - the OCU, and only one person needs it – Poroshenko, said MP Vadim Novinsky.

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