The response to “Do not ban the UOC” petition and what could happen next

04 June 19:35
The Cabinet chooses not to respond to the petition. Photo: UOJ The Cabinet chooses not to respond to the petition. Photo: UOJ

The authorities responded to the "Do not ban the UOC" petition with a manipulation, designed to hide their hostility towards the Church and to cover up their intentions.

On January 13, 2022, a petition authored by Yulia Kominko was posted on the website of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine with a demand to take into account the position of patriotic citizens of Ukraine during the legal resolution of the issue of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and not to prohibit the activities of the UOC.

The author of the petition draws attention to the fact that among the believers of the UOC there are a huge number of patriots of Ukraine who contribute to the fight against Russian aggression, and the infringement of their constitutional right to freedom of conscience is, firstly, illegal, and secondly, unfair. Separate cases of collaboration among the clergy cannot be an excuse for banning the UOC. Moreover, the author fully supports the need to investigate each case of collaboration and bring the perpetrators to justice, but focuses on the fact that these crimes should not be assigned by default to all believers of the UOC. Quote: “However, we consider it impossible to lay the crimes of individual citizens on the entire ramified institution, which is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and on this basis resort to its legal prohibition.”

As a matter of fact, the wording of the requirements for the authorities is rather streamlined: “We ask the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, when developing the legislative framework, to approach the solution of the church issue in the same balanced way as it is done when considering problems in other areas of the life of the state, rather than to shift the blame of individual representatives of the UOC to the entire institution which is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

In March, this petition received the required 25,000 votes. The authorities were obliged to respond to it. The Cabinet of Ministers could well answer a petition in the style: yes, we will take it into account, we will approach it in a balanced way, we will not shift the blame. At the same time, the campaign against the UOC could well go on as usual. Firstly, not only the Cabinet of Ministers is engaged in the development of the legislative framework (in many cases, this is done by the MPs themselves). Secondly, there are no clear criteria for distinguishing “prudent” from “non-prudent” when considering issues by the government. Therefore, the Cabinet of Ministers would have risked nothing if it answered the petition in accordance with the law. But for some reason, the Cabinet of Ministers was afraid of even such a harmless petition and, instead of answering on the merits, began to think up excuses.

According to the Procedure for consideration of an electronic petition addressed to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated July 22, 2016, Prime Minister D. Shmyhal was supposed to respond to the author of the petition, and relevant information should appear on the website of the Cabinet of Ministers. “No later than the next working day after the deadline for consideration of the petition, an announcement is published on the Government Portal in the relevant section with the appropriate justification for support or non-support by the Prime Minister of Ukraine, and a response is sent to the author (initiator) of the petition or a public association,” says Para 22 of this document.

Instead, Yulia Kominko received a reply from the Deputy Head of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience V. Voinalovych, in which he actually repeated the accusation of the UOC of collaborationism and hinted that the adoption of a bill to ban it was not far off.

The author of the petition expressed her opinion on this reply in the following words: “The Prime Minister of Ukraine should have publicly answered us what measures will be taken in order to solve the problem outlined in the petition. Instead, we received a document signed by the first deputy chairman of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience with a list of platitudes to the effect that the state knows what it is doing. What exactly the government is doing and how it plans to solve the situation is not reported. <...> 25,000 citizens of Ukraine asked the government to take measures to resolve the issue with the UOC, given that the believers of the UOC take a patriotic position. However, some official of the tenth rank answered them from himself that 'Moscow is killing our children'."

Yu. Kominko filed a complaint with the secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers, as this response is a gross violation of the law of Ukraine "On Citizens' Appeals".

At the next round of bureaucratic ingenuity, the author of the petition received a response personally from the DESS head V. Yelensky, which is worth considering in more detail, since his logic is the logic of the entire campaign to ban the UOC.

V. Yelensky writes: “The DESS really considers the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (hereinafter referred to as the UOC) a part of the Russian Orthodox Church (hereinafter referred to as the ROC). The grounds for this are as follows:

I) The conclusion of the religious experts upon examination of the Charter of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for the church-canonical relation with the Moscow Patriarchate (hereinafter referred to as the Conclusion) approved by the Order of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience dated January 27, 2023 No. H-8/11. The Conclusion testified that the UOC continues to be in a relationship of subordination to the ROC; no documents or actions that would testify to the transformation of the UOC into an independent religious organization relative to the ROC have been identified.

II) The decision of the Kyiv District Administrative Court of May 15, 2023 in case No. 640/4748/19, which confirmed the fact that the UOC religious association of the UOC is incorporated in the structure (is a constituent part) of the ROC.”

What kind of court decision is this, which asserts that the UOC belongs to the ROC? The text of this decision is in the public domain and it is easy to get familiar with it. This decision was made at the suit of the UOC (formally, a number of diocesan administrations and monasteries, etc.) against the Ministry of Culture with a demand to recognize as illegal and cancel the order of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine dated January 25, 2019 No. 37), falling under the provisions of the seventh and eighth parts of Article 12 of the Law of Ukraine "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations".

By this examination, the UOC was recognized as part of the ROC. The court, by its decision dated May 15, 2023, denied the claim and actually confirmed the correctness of this examination. By and large, the court’s decision is based on two points: firstly, it is the Charter of the UOC that was in force in 2019 and where it was written in black and white that the UOC is part of the ROC. Secondly, this is the Law of Ukraine No. 2662-VIII of December 20, 2018 “On Amending Article 12 of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations” on the names of religious organizations (associations) that are part of the structure (a constituent part of) a religious organization (association), the leading center (administration) of which is located outside Ukraine in a state that is recognized by law as having committed military aggression against Ukraine and / or temporarily occupying part of the territory of Ukraine. This law provides three grounds for recognizing the UOC as part of the ROC:

  • if the Statute of the UOC says so;
  • if the Statute of the ROC says so;
  • if the bishops of the UOC are members of the governing bodies of the ROC.

It has been repeatedly said that the second basis is completely absurd, as Ukraine essentially commits to implementing Russia's regulatory acts on its territory. In this regard, how does the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) differ from the Russian laws on the acceptance of the occupied Ukrainian territories into its composition? Yulia Kominko even writes on her Facebook, commenting on Volodymyr Yelensky's response: "It's as if they would deprive me, Yulia Kominko, of citizenship because I was born in the city of Alchevsk, which is currently occupied territory. By the same logic, some state body in Ukraine would conduct its examination of the Russian Federation's constitution, see Lugansk region as part of the RF, and decide that since I was born not in Ukraine but on the territory of a foreign state (because that's how it's indicated in the Russian Constitution), my citizenship should be revoked, my rights limited, and my activities no longer valid."

But whether you write about it or not, this provision of the law “On Freedom of Conscience..." is in effect. Moreover, the Law No. 2662-VIII of December 20, 2018, "On Amendments to Article 12..." was recognized by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine as compliant with the Constitution.

In addition, the Kyiv District Administrative Court also refers to the religious expertise of the Charter of the UOC, which was approved by the Order of the State Investigative Committee of January 27, 2023 No. N-8/11, which recognized the UOC as part of the ROC already under the new Charter, where there is not a word about the ROC at all.

That is, in fact, V. Yelensky in the answer to Yu. Kominko in both paragraphs refers to the same thing, namely, to “his own” expertise. Back in January 2023, when draft law 8371 was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada on the ban on the activities of religious organizations in Ukraine with a leading center in Russia, it was assumed that this was the bill on banning the UOC, and that DESS expert opinion would be a momentum for outlawing the UOC. Read more about this in the article Shmyhal's bill: banning the UOC in 4 moves. After a while, V. Yelensky really gathered an expert group, which included religious scholars, who, like himself, repeatedly demonstrated their negative sentiments towards the UOC.

For example, Ihor Kozlovsky, on the air of the Espresso TV channel in December 2022, insisted on the speedy adoption of a bill to ban the UOC. Oleksandr Sagan in a Facebook post dated 11/29/2022. demanded to “immediately limit the anti-Ukrainian capabilities of the UOC-MP (Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine). First of all, we are talking about the immediate termination of all agreements on the lease of real estate (state and municipal), all other agreements, since these religions. organizations have lost the status of a legal entity." In a Facebook post dated December 10, 2022, he claimed that “the Security Service of Ukraine should apply tougher measures against representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, ignoring the presumption of innocence.”

Liudmyla Filipovych stated that the UOC is a “quasi-religion”, which in fact is not a religious structure. In turn, Yuri Chornomorets directly called the UOC a propaganda strain of the “UOC FSB”, called for the deportation of the entire episcopate and the destruction of the structure itself. Could these obviously biased people conduct a truly unbiased examination? The question is rhetorical.

Despite the fact that the Legal Department of the UOC demanded that they be excluded from the composition of the expert group, this was not done. As a result, they conducted a so-called examination of the Charter of the UOC with a predictable conclusion that the UOC is part of the ROC with all the ensuing consequences. More about this in the article "Expertise" of UOC Statute from State Ethnopolitics: to see the non-existent.

An interesting detail: there is a phrase in the text of "Expertise" that "The expertise is of a religious nature, but is not of a legal one." And now, contrary to his own statement, V. Yelensky refers to the results of the "Expertise" in the most legal sense in his answer to Yu. Kominko. And soon, in all likelihood, this "Expertise" will be the main gear in banning the largest confession in Ukraine.

It turns out that this whole construction on the prohibition of the UOC, this whole colossus with feet of clay is based on the “Expertise”, which is the result of the creativity of a group of people known for their personal antipathy towards the UOC. Morever, the campaign to ban the UOC is led by the head of the State Service for Ethnopolitcs and Freedom of Conscience, V. Yelensky, who in his religious works eulogized V. Lenin and said that repressions against believers in the USSR are fictions of the West. below are few quotes, just to illustrate:

•      “It is impossible not to be amazed at the magnitude and depth of Lenin's thought, his genius”;

•      “Marxist-Leninist theory gives us the tools to penetrate into the spiritual sphere of mankind”;

•      “The defenders of the fake in the West about ‘persecution of faith in the USSR’ used all kinds of sophistication; the anti-Soviet minds resorted to all possible lies!”.

Everyone knows what Lenin did to destroy the Church and the priesthood. He pathologically hated the Church and did everything in his power to destroy it. Again, just for illustration, a quote from the Letter of V. Lenin to the members of the Politburo on the case of resistance to the seizure of church valuables in the city of Shuya (1922): “The Politburo gives a detailed oral directive to the judicial authorities so that the trial against the Shuya rebels <...> be carried out with maximum speed and end with nothing more than the execution of a very large number of the most influential and dangerous Black Hundreds of Shuya city, and, if possible, not only of this city, but also Moscow and several other spiritual centers ... The more representatives of the reactionary clergy and the reactionary bourgeoisie we manage to shoot on this occasion, the better. It is necessary now to teach this public a lesson in such a way that they will not even dare to think about any resistance for several decades."

Indeed, as V. Yelensky wrote, "Marxist-Leninist theory gives us the tools to penetrate into the spiritual sphere of mankind."

The adepts of V. Lenin, following his precepts, closed churches and monasteries, expelled monks from them. Only in Kyiv, the Bolsheviks destroyed 145 cathedrals and churches.

Today, with the participation of V. Yelensky, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Museum is expelling monks from the main shrine of our people. The temples of the Upper Lavra have already been taken away. Previously, thousands of believers would come to worship in these temples. Now, when representatives of the OCU “serve” there, the worshipers are almost invisible. The Lower Lavra, as well as all churches and monasteries they manage to take away, is doomed to the same fate.

However, let's get back to V. Yelensky's answer to Yulia Kominko. At the end, he writes: “As for the ‘ban on the UOC', we inform you that the draft submitted by the Cabinet of Ministers to the Verkhovna Rada and registered under number 8371 does not provide for a ban on any religious organization, but for the impossibility of the activities in Ukraine of religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in a country that commits aggression against Ukraine.”

In other words, we a kind of do not ban you, we just ban those affiliated. Well, if you fall into this category, it serves you right.

This means that the campaign to ban the UOC will continue. The Bolsheviks persecuted the Church under the "counter-revolution" slogan, while the neo-Bolsheviks are doing it under the "collaboration" slogan. However, the essence does not change with the change of slogans, as long as it can help them reach their goal – to exterminate the Church.

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