Parliament increases control over religious organizations
Despite agreement with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, on 16 October the Verkhovna Rada adopted in full draft law No. 10221 which makes major amendments to the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.
The Religious Freedom Institute reports that the law makes the procedure by which religious organizations gain legal entity status considerably more difficult. This is due to the introduction of two types of registration procedure which are not coordinated: registration of documents of association and State registration – insertion in the Unified Register of Legal Entities.
Draft Law No. 10221 also makes the procedure more difficult for foreign religious figures to receive agreement for their being in Ukraine this being needed for the issue of visas. The agreement required for all religious organizations will be organized by the Ministry of Culture which means in Kyiv, this being in breach of Article 24 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.
Furthermore, like in the times of Soviet totalitarianism, the right to oversee adherence to legislation on freedom of conscience and religion is given to the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Culture and other ministries, as well as local administrations and bodies of local self-government.
Parliament has thus totally ignored the position of the religious community and the agreement reached betweeb the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations and the President’s Representative in the Verkhovna Rada, Yury Miroshnychenko and the relevant person in the Justice Ministry.
There was no discussion in parliament at all and the whole process of voting in the law took less than a minute. The parliamentary profile committee on cultural and religious matters where the majority is held by the opposition had not prepared the draft law for its second reading which made it impossible to take the amendments proposed by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations into consideration.
The preparation of the bill by the Justice Ministry and its adoption by parliament all took place despite the promise made by President Yanukovych to the heads of churches and religious organizations during their meeting on 21 April 2011. it had been agreed then that no amendments would be made to the Law if there was no consensus from different faiths.
The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations has already prepared an appeal to the President asking him to veto the law.