On the Dissolution of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion
Maxim Vasin, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Freedom reports on the dissolution of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion, one of the many changes resulting from President Yanukovych’s decree of 9 December 2010.
According to the Decree, religious organizations will be registered by a newly created State Registration Service. The functions involved with implementing State policy in the religious sphere, up till now within the jurisdiction of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion will be within the competence of a reorganized Ministry of Culture.
The same Ministry will be responsible for the sphere of inter-ethnic relations and protecting the rights of national minorities.
The Minister of what was previously the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mykhailo Kulynyak, now becomes Minister of Culture with the above additions to the scope of the Ministry.
The President also instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to “decide according to established procedure the issue of dissolving the National Expert Commission on the Protection of Public Morality”. The existence of such a body is set out in the Law on the Protection of Public Morality.
Maxim Vasin points out that Article 30 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations stipulates the functioning of a State body on religious affairs, with its main task being to ensure the carrying out of State policy with regarding to religion and the Church.
The law also vests this body with the functions of
- promoting agreement between State bodies, at the request of religious organizations, and providing the necessary help on issues which those bodies need to resolve;
- promoting mutual understanding and tolerance between different faiths and deonominations;
- registration of the acts of association of various religious bodies, centres, etc;
- providing consultation to State bodies on applying the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations; and others.
According to the President’s Decree, only one of these functions will now be carried out by the State Registration Service which will be responsible for registering not only religious, but also civic and charitable organizations, while all others will fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture.
This role of the State Registration Service is again in breach of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations. This prepares the ground for hasty amendments to the Law without proper preparation and coordination with the religious community.
The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations and other inter-faith associations have on a number of occasions spoken out against the introduction of any amendments to the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations. They believe that the legislative process in present conditions runs the danger of religious freedom being reduced.
The central bodies dissolved or restructured according to the Decree will continue carrying out their functions under the administrative reforms are completed. The Cabinet of Ministers is given 2 months to draw up draft provisions for the restructured central executive bodies and proposals on amendments to legislation following from the Decree.
Abridged from the analysis by Maxim Vasin, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Freedom