UOL: President's petition on granting Tomos contradicts Constitution

P. Poroshenko and the head of Phanar sign a Cooperation Agreement, 2018 Photo: Facebook page of Petro Poroshenko

The Union of Orthodox Lawyers indicated that over the past four years, the VR and the President of Ukraine have repeatedly violated Article 35 of the Constitution.

The legitimacy of the appeal of the President of Ukraine to grant the Tomos of autocephaly to the OCU, made on the basis of an unconstitutional act of the Verkhovna Rada and in the absence of the authority to such an appeal from the Ukrainian people, can be questioned. Representatives of the human rights organization "Union of Orthodox Lawyers" (UOL), created to provide legal support to persecuted communities and priests of the UOC, wrote about this on the UOL's tg-channel on Sunday, March 7.

The UOL recalled that Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine defines and discloses the content of the human right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which "includes the freedom to have or accept a religion or belief of one's choice and the freedom to freely practice one's religion and beliefs." It also declares that the Church and religious organizations in Ukraine are separated from the state.

The lawyers clarified that, according to the definitions specified in the article, “no one should be subjected to coercion given that it humiliates their freedom to have or accept a religion or belief of their choice”, “no religion can be recognized by the state as compulsory”, and “ decisions of state bodies cannot have a religious basis.”

Over the past four years, the above constitutional guarantees have been repeatedly violated by the Verkhovna Rada and the President of Ukraine, the human rights organization said.

In particular, we are talking about the rationale for the adoption of Law No. 2662-VIII (On the names of religious organizations) in December 2018 and Law No. 2673-VIII (On the subordination of religious organizations and the procedure for state registration of religious organizations with the status of a legal entity) in January 2019.

According to lawyers, the assessment of the Constitutional Court regarding the Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of March 19, 2018 No. 2410-VIII "On support of the appeal of the President of Ukraine to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on granting the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine" is also very indicative, indicating that this decision is not is a legal act of parliament, does not entail any legal consequences and, as a parliamentary act, contradicts the secular essence of the Ukrainian state.

The UOL also recalled the Agreement on cooperation and interaction signed by the President of Ukraine and the head of Phanar on November 3, 2018, the purpose of which is “to promote national consolidation based on the recognition of the unique and self-sufficient Ukrainian Orthodox Spiritual tradition and the implementation of the right to establish the Ukrainian Orthodox Church through the issuance of the respective Tomos."

“State bodies have begun and are actively carrying out the process of imposing a leading religion on Ukrainians and are establishing ways to exercise their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion by introducing certain legal mechanisms, which, in the language of judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, contradicts the secular essence of the Ukrainian state.

In addition, it is possible to question and draw a conclusion about the illegitimacy of the Address of the President of Ukraine on granting the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, since, firstly, it was made on the basis of an unconstitutional act of Parliament and contrary to Art. 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine, and secondly, in the absence of authority for such an appeal on behalf of the Ukrainian people,” the human rights activists summed up.

Recall that the initiative to create a human rights organization in support of persecuted communities and priests of the UOC belongs to the Kyiv Brotherhood of St. Prince Vladimir.

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