Action to intimidate judges or why OCU dreams of renaming UOC

OCU opposes the repeal of the law on the forced renaming of the UOC. Photo: UOJ

The Constitutional Court of Ukraine is to consider the case on forced renaming of the UOC. The OCU "Synod" thinks the court mustn't take the side of the UOC. Why?

In recent days, we have once again seen how radicals "nightmares" "wrong" Ukrainians, this time journalists from opposition channels. And earlier we could see many times how professional patriotic activists terrorized various people whom they were "ordered" to. They break into apartments and offices, insult, arrange physical attacks, and generally arrange a "fun life". At the same time, law enforcement officers do not interfere, and the judges are silent. Because they understand that they can become the next victim of the “patriots”.

This scheme is usually preceded by “artillery fire” in the media and social networks, when future victims are accused of various sins, for which they should be “justly punished”.

On February 2, 2021, on the eve of the turmoil, the "synod" of the OCU expressed "serious concern" about the possible abolition of the anti-church Law on renaming the UOC. The "bishops" declare that if the judges recognize the law on renaming the UOC unconstitutional, it means they were bribed by the aggressor, it means they are destroying the independence of Ukraine, it means the "international partners" should punish these judges. Such rhetoric is very reminiscent of bracing judges to make a "correct" decision. The training, which is usually carried on by activists with all the attendant attributes: insults, threats, intimidation and other attractions of the “stick-up” culture.

Who came up with the Law on forced renaming and why?

We refer to Law No. 2662-VIII "On Amendments to Article 12 of the Law of Ukraine ‘On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations’", which Poroshenko signed on December 20, 2018. It says that religious organizations that are part of the structure (are part of) a religious organization, the governing center of which is located in a country recognized by Ukraine as an aggressor country, are ordered to change their name.

The above date is very important here. Let us recall that just a few days earlier (December 15, 2018) the so-called "unification council" took place, at which the OCU was created. And the law on renaming was a logical step in the global plan of destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – after all, during the “Ukrainian-Russian” war, bearing the name of the Russian Orthodox Church is like being a red rag for a bull. Therefore, the calculation was that after the renaming most of the UOC parishes would not want to be such a rag and would join the new structure.

Interestingly, the main initiator of this law, along with Poroshenko, was Filaret, who appealed to the Verkhovna Rada "to adopt a law that there is one Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and the second Orthodox Church should be called the Russian Church."

Almost two weeks after the arrival of the Tomos, Denisenko literally demanded from his assistants “to eradicate this name – the Orthodox Church of Ukraine”, because “this is not our name”: “We are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Like others: Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Serbian, etc. "The Orthodox Church of Ukraine" means that this is not the ruling Church, but only one of the Churches in Ukraine ... However, we are the ruling Church in Ukraine."

Another reason for the struggle for the name "UOC" is the property, namely monasteries and churches, which belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The “correct” naming of the schismatic structure would not only simplify the seizure of churches, but would also allow schismatics to dispose of the “removable” property of the UOC as a “legitimate owner”. That is why in 2019 Filaret, in the hope of his “patriarchal” status in the new “church”, suggested registering his organization with the Ukrainian authorities as “UOC (OCU)” (about the scheme invented by Filaret and supported today by Dumenko will be said below).

Denisenko hoped that with the help of the government loyal to the new structure, it would be possible to take the name from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and then, with the help of a simple manipulation, remove the words "OCU" from its structure and turn it into "UOC". For this end, it was proposed to adopt a law on the forced renaming of religious structures, the governing centers of which are located on the territory of countries recognized by the government as "aggressors" in relation to Ukraine.

Renaming Law and the Constitution of Ukraine

On December 20, 2018, the Verkhovna Rada, despite clearly anti-constitutional provisions, adopted Law No. 2662-VIII, based on which the authorities began to put pressure on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and demand that it change its name.

Already on January 30, 2019, the "Kyiv Metropolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine)" appeared in the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, Individual Entrepreneurs and Public Organizations of Ukraine. The name is actually identical to the one that belongs to the canonical UOC. That is why the Legal Department of the UOC considered that the newly created structure had no legal grounds to register under this name. “The so-called newly formed OCU has no reason to be called the Kyiv Metropolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, not only because a religious center has existed with a similar name since 1991, but also because they have to respect the primary document of title ‘Tomos’, which assigns them two names – "Orthodox Churches of Ukraine" (OCU) and "Holy Church of Ukraine" (HCU)," said Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, head of the Legal Department of the UOC.

In this regard, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine and the State Registrar of the KP "Center for Legal Assistance and Registration" on the illegal character of the state registration of the religious center of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).

At the same time, the Ukrainian authorities and courts were well aware that anti-church laws do not comply with either the Constitution of Ukraine or international treaties in the field of human rights and directly violate Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine, Article 9 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 18 of the International Covenant on 1966 Civil and Political Rights, Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The renaming bill took a long time to develop. But back in 2017, the Main Scientific and Expert Office under the Parliament of Ukraine stressed that, in accordance with Art. 8 of the Law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations", a religious organization can freely change its governing center and at the same time not notify state bodies. Moreover, it may not be registered in Ukraine at all, and its activities will be legal as long as it is conducted within the framework of the current legislation.

Therefore, it is small wonder that in April 2019, the District Administrative Court of Kyiv halted the process of forcible renaming of the UOC, and in December this year, the Supreme Court of Ukraine allowed the UOC to retain its name. On February 11, 2020, the Grand Chamber of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine at the open part of the plenary session began to consider the case on the compliance of the law on renaming religious organizations with the Constitution of Ukraine. And so the “Holy Synod” of the OCU came out against the possible abolition of this anti-church law.

Why does the OCU wish to be called "UOC" so much?

We spoke about the first reason above – this is the property of the UOC.

We know that after receiving the Tomos, the officials carried out illegal re-registration of the UOC communities in favor of the OCU, deprived the UOC parishes of property, expelled believers from their churches, or harassed them in every possible way. In order to make all this easier, they need a law on renaming.

The scheme here resembles those that were already used in the early 90s. In order to appropriate some company (plant, factory, bank, etc.), a fake organization with the same name was registered, and under this name the scammers appropriated other people's property. The OCU thus intends to act similarly – to take away the name from the UOC that owns almost 12,500 parishes and turn into a legal entity, the statutes of which say that they belong to the "Ukrainian Orthodox Church".

Of course, they may object that if the UOC is renamed, then the communities will be renamed as well. But, firstly, by means of administrative pressure they will be “persuaded” not to do this, and secondly, the re-registration itself can drag on for years (there are precedents). While these statutes are being re-registered, the leadership of the UOC, i.e. the OCU, will be legally disposing of the communities of the canonical Church. It's simple.

The second reason is patriots.

The leadership of the OCU has repeatedly stressed that it is precisely their structure that is Ukrainian and patriotic, while the UOC members are traitors, separatists, collaborators, etc. This means that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the omophorion of Metropolitan Onuphry should not exist – it needs to be turned into the "ROCU".

If the court recognizes the renaming of the UOC as legal, then such a decision will definitely spur a new wave of "transitions" (already voiced by both Zoria and Dumenko), which are actually raider seizures of temples and will give the "patriots" additional weapons in the fight against the UOC. After all, it is clear that it will be much easier for an ordinary Ukrainian citizen to sympathize with the "Ukrainian Orthodox Church" than, say, the "Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine".

Does the "synod" of the OCU put pressure on the Constitutional Court?

The "hierarchs" of the OCU declare that "we are facing direct bribery or other corrupt influence" on the court by "politicians of the pro-Russian direction, supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate." Sergei Dumenko and his "synod" believe that the "hybrid aggressor" allegedly "uses direct or indirect influence on individual judges in order to make decisions that destroy the state independence of Ukraine."

Naturally, they have no evidence. These are simply unfounded accusations along the lines of "prove that you are not a camel."

Moreover, on the basis of such unfounded accusations, the Dumenko structure called on "the state and international partners of Ukraine to pay attention to the indicated potential threats and prevent their implementation."

Even the most superficial analysis of the OCU statement allows us to conclude that the Dumenkovo "synod" is simply openly putting pressure on the Constitutional Court of Ukraine in order to obtain the desired result. And the essence of the OCU rhetoric is clear – to warn the judges that it is necessary to decide "correctly", otherwise ... What is "otherwise" – we, unfortunately, witness too often in the modern history of Ukraine. And we are talking not only about possible actions of radicals near the building of the Constitutional Court, but also about possible reprisals, including physical ones, with those judges who will be defined as a “corrupt official” bribed by the “aggressor”.

In addition, we emphasize that in the statement of the OCU, there is a very clear hint that a decision not in favor of this structure will cause discontent on the part of "international partners" who should "pay attention to the indicated potential threats and prevent their implementation." Being aware of the dependent policy of the Ukrainian authorities, we can say with confidence that the OCU's hope for external support is not just lip service. Suffice it to recall Dumenko's visits to the United States, Pompeo's to Kyiv, and numerous statements by the US Embassy and the State Department about support for Dumenko and the OCU.

It can be said that an appeal to the "international community" is a clear instruction to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine in which direction it should act in order not to fall out with overseas "partners". And which of the officials in our country wants to have a falling-out with them?

An excellent example of hate speech and enmity, manipulation and threats

Let's see what expressions the “hierarchs” of the Dumenko-led structure feel free to say: “the Metropolitanate of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine is persistent in defiance of this law ... a religious association called the ‘Ukrainian Orthodox Church‘ has not fulfilled the requirements of Ukrainian legislation for two years now.” I just want to ask a question – is the "synod" of the OCU a judicial body with the appropriate competence for such conclusions?

We particularly note that this document was adopted at the level of the highest governing body of the OCU, and therefore is of great importance for the members of this religious structure, which directly forms its attitude to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And what attitude can the modern religious structure have towards the Church associated with the "aggressor state"? Extremely negative. Even more – explicitly aggressive.

Example: “Everyone who lives in Ukraine and does not love it had better attach a plastic number to their ears, as it is done with rootless dogs. So that the Ukrainians can see who they deal with." One should agree that the idea of “marking” Ukrainian citizens with “numbers” has too many parallels with the stripes in the form of David’s star on the sleeve, which the Nazis attached to those living in Jewish ghettos. The strangest and most terrible thing is that such “tagging” is not offered by a young man who has read “Mein Kampf” and fancies himself to be a “representative of the highest race”, but the “hierarch” of the OCU Adrian Kulik. And if it is a "bishop" of this structure who has no scruples about making such statements, then we can only guess how far its rank-and-file members will go ...

Hence it must be stated that in the text of the “holy synod” of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine there is nothing Orthodox and ecclesiastical. This is a political document, the purpose of which is obvious – to put pressure on the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. Will it work?

Until recently, we would say hardly. But recently, the policy of the state in the church issue has changed so dramatically that we are no longer confident.

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