26 August 1997

NEGOTIATORS RACE TOWARDS COMPROMISE ON CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS by Lawrence A. Uzzell, Keston News Service Kremlin officials are racing to draft a compromise bill on church-state relations, acceptable both to the hard-line parliament and to leaders of Russia's minority religions, before the parliament's lower house reconvenes next week. One possibility, informed sources have told Keston News Service, is a draft which would try to satisfy the objections of Roman Catholics but not of Protestants. A Catholic source told Keston on 25 August that GENNADI SELEZNYOV, the Duma's speaker, 'wants to buy us out'.  The communist deputy is seeking an amendment which according to Keston's source would add the Catholics to the list of privileged, 'traditional' confessions but would make 'only cosmetic changes' in other areas.  Other sources confirmed that the Yeltsin administration is cooperating with this tactic, negotiating separately with the Catholics and the Protestants. ANATOLI KRASIKOV, head of the Russian branch of the International Religious Liberty Association and a former official of the Yeltsin administration, told Keston on 25 August that the administration's negotiating team is now being led by MIKHAIL KOMISAR, who recently replaced MAKSIM BOIKO as Yeltsin's deputy chief of staff.  Komisar is also head of the Interfax news agency.  Perhaps not coincidentally, Interfax reported on 22 August that the president's team was on the verge of agreement with religious leaders.  But other well-placed sources told Keston that negotiations between the Kremlin team and representatives of Orthodox PATRIARCH ALEKSI were still continuing on 25 August, suggesting that agreement had still not been reached as of that date. Krasikov said that even if Yeltsin's men manage to write a compromise draft acceptable both to the Patriarchate and to minority religious leaders, they will probably not be able to convince the Duma to accept it.  He predicted that the Duma will soon schedule a vote to override the president's July veto of the parliament's bill.  Other sources told Keston that such a vote might come as early as 3 September, the Duma's first day back in session. Meanwhile VIKTOR ZORKALTSEV, chairman of the Duma's committee on religion, cancelled a meeting which had been scheduled for 26 August to discuss the administration's compromise proposals.  A Duma source told Keston that Zorkaltsev is under pressure from GENNADI ZYUGANOV and other Communist Party leaders to take a hard-line position.  The source said that Zorkaltsev had reacted favourably to a compromise text drafted and informally circulated by Boiko's team of Kremlin negotiators in mid-August, but that the Patriarchate had opposed it. Keston's sources stressed that the mid-August text had no official status as a formal proposal of the Yeltsin administration.  Its own authors were still circulating suggested amendments to it as late as 21 August. The mid-August draft would change the controversial '15-year rule' for newly-formed religious associations in the bill passed by the parliament on 4 July to a less harsh five-year rule.  It would explicitly affirm that this rule does not apply retroactively to associations created before the law takes effect.  But, like the July bill, it would distinguish between so-called 'religious organisations' and 'religious groups' and would deny the rights of legal personality to the latter.  It would also make it easier for the secular authorities to ban 'religious groups' by court order.  The compromise draft would allow - but would not require - Russia's secular authorities to permit foreign religious organisations to open branches in Russia even if they are not specifically invited by Russian religious organisations. Russian religious-rights activists believe that this compromise draft still has many defects.  ANATOLI PCHELINTSEV of Moscow's Institute for Religion and Law told Keston on 22 August that if he were a deputy, he would vote against it.  VLADIMIR RYAKHOVSKY of Moscow's Christian Legal Centre told Keston that he is advising leaders of minority confessions to take a strong stand. In his view the very concept of second-class 'religious groups' is unacceptable, and even a five-year probationary period is too long. Ryakhovsky also believes that the proposed preamble, specifically mentioning certain religious confessions, should be excluded altogether as a violation of Russia's constitutional provision that all confessions are equal before the law. Pchelintsev nevertheless predicted - disagreeing with Krasikov - that negotiators from the Duma and the Yeltsin administration will soon reach agreement on a compromise text, and that the compromise will go to a 'second reading' in the Duma in September.  Ryakhovsky warned that the bill's supporters may repeat the 'tactics of disinformation' which they used in June and July - pretending to have consulted a wide range of religious minorities and to have won their support without in fact having done so. Mid-August draft compromise APPENDIX ONE: Here is Keston's translation of the draft compromise informally released by President Yeltsin's administration in mid-August.  Text in brackets < > is language which this draft would drop from the parliament's bill rejected by President Yeltsin in late July.  Text entirely in CAPITAL LETTERS is new language which the draft would add to the parliament's bill. Text in normal typeface is language in the parliament's bill which the draft would leave unchanged. Preamble: PROTECTING THE INALIENABLE RIGHT OF MAN AND CITIZEN TO FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN WORLD-VIEW, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO CONFESS ANY RELIGION OR TO CONFESS NO RELIGION WHATEVER; RECOGNISING THE SPECIAL ROLE IN THE HISTORY OF RUSSIA OF ORTHODOXY, WHICH TOGETHER WITH ISLAM, BUDDHISM, JUDAISM AND OTHER RELIGIONS TRADITIONALLY EXISTING IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION CONSTITUTES AN INSEPARABLE PART OF RUSSIA'S SPIRITUAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE; the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation hereby adopts this federal law. (Article 3, point 1)  Freedom of conscience and freedom of creed are guaranteed in the Russian Federation, including the right to confess, individually or jointly with others, any religion or not to confess any, and the freedom to choose, change, possess or disseminate religious or other convictions and to act in accordance with them. FOREIGN CITIZENS AND PERSONS WITHOUT CITIZENSHIP WHO ARE LEGALLY PRESENT ON THE TERRITORY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION HAVE THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND FREEDOM OF CREED ON AN EQUAL FOOTING WITH CITIZENS OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, AND BEAR RESPONSIBILITY AS ESTABLISHED BY FEDERAL LAWS FOR THE VIOLATION OF THE LAWS ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE, FREEDOM OF CREED AND RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS. (Article 3, point 4)  Citizens of the Russian Federation are equal before the law in all spheres of civic, political, economic, social and cultural life, independent of their attitudes toward religion or religious affiliations.  A citizen of the Russian Federation, in the event that military service contradicts his convictions or creed, has the right to substitute alternative civilian service for it.  IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS ON MILITARY SERVICE, upon the request of religious organisations, clergymen may, by a decision of the President of the Russian Federation, be granted deferment from conscription into military service in peacetime.   (Article 6, Point 1) 1.  As a religious association in the Russian Federation is recognised a voluntary association of PERSONS PERMANENTLY RESIDING ON THE TERRITORY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, formed with the goals of joint confession and dissemination of their faith... (Article 6, Point 2)  Religious associations may be created in the form of religious groups or religious organisations.  A RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION IS REQUIRED ANNUALLY TO INFORM THE ORGAN REGISTERING RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS OF THE CONTINUATION OF ITS ACTIVITIES, INDICATING THE CURRENT ADDRESS OF ITS PERMANENTLY FUNCTIONING GOVERNING ORGAN (ITS LEADER OR OTHER PERSON REPRESENTING THE RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION IN RELATIONS WITH STATE ORGANS AND ORGANS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT). (Article 7, Point 1) A voluntary association of citizens, formed for the goals of joint confession and dissemination of their faith, carrying out its activities without state registration and without obtaining the legal capabilities of a legal personality, is called a religious group IN THIS FEDERAL LAW. PREMISES, AND PROPERTY NECESSARY FOR THE ACTIVITIES OF A RELIGIOUS GROUP, ARE TO BE PROVIDED FOR THE USE OF THE GROUP BY ITS PARTICIPANTS. (Article 7, Point 2)   (Article 7, Point 2 )  Religious groups have the right to conduct worship services, to carry out religious rituals and ceremonies, TO CARRY OUT THE TEACHING OF RELIGION, RELIGIOUS UPBRINGING, AND ALSO CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS ON CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES. (Article 8, Point 1) A free association of PERSONS PERMANENTLY RESIDING ON THE TERRITORY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, formed with the goals of joint confession and dissemination of their faith, and registered as a legal personality in accordance with practice established by law, is recognised as a religious organisation. (Article 8, Point 2)  Religious organisations, depending on the territory where they are active, are divided into local and centralised ones.   (Article 8, Point 3) A religious organisation consisting of ten or more PARTICIPANTS who are at least 18 years old and who are permanently residing in one locality or in one urban or rural settlement within the territory of one subject of the Russian Federation is recognised as a local religious organisation. (Article 8, Point 4)  A religious organisation consisting in accordance with its charter of no fewer than three local religious organisations is recognised as a CENTRALISED religious organisation. (Article 8, Point 5)   (Article 8, Point 8)  The organs of state, in considering matters touching upon the activity of religious organisations within society, are to grant organisations the chance of participating in considering these questions. (Article 9, Point 1)  Local religious organisations are formed on the initiative of adult citizens , who join together as a religious group, which must have confirmation from the organs of the local government that it has existed for no less than FIVE YEARS on the said territory, or confirmation from a centralised religious organisation of the same creed that it forms part of its structure. (Article 11, Point 2)  State registration of a local AND ALSO OF A centralised religious organisation CONSISTING OF LOCAL RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS LOCATED within the limits of the territory of one subject of the Russian Federation, is performed by the organ of justice of the CORRESPONDING subject of the Russian Federation. (Article 11, Point 4)  For the state registration of a local religious organisation, adult PERSONS PERMANENTLY RESIDING IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION. at least 18 years old and numbering no fewer than 10 people submit the following to the relevant organ of justice... confirmation by an organ of the local government that the said religious group has existed for no less than FIVE YEARS on the relevant territory (FOR ORGANISATIONS CREATED AFTER THE COMING INTO EFFECT OF THIS FEDERAL LAW), or confirmation of its membership in a centralised religious organisation issued by that centralised organisation's governing body... (Article 11, Point 5) In a case in which the SUPREME governing organ (centre) of the religious organisation which is being formed is located outside the Russian Federation, in addition to the documents stipulated in point 4 of the present article, in accordance with established practice, the statutes or other founding document of the foreign religious organisation, confirmed by a state organ of the country in which the organisation is located, must be submitted. (Article 11, Point 6)  The basis for state registration of centralised religious organisations, and also of religious organisations formed by centralised religious organisations, is...a document confirming the location of the (legal address) of the newly-formed religious organisation...  IN CREATING A CENTRALISED RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION THE FOUNDER (FOUNDERS) IS TO PRESENT ALSO THE CHARTERS OF NO FEWER THAN THREE LOCAL RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS WHICH BELONG TO ITS STRUCTURE, AND INFORMATION CONCERNING THE INCLUSION OF OTHER RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS. (Article 11, Point 12)    Failure to provide the information indicated over a period of three years is sufficient grounds for the registering body to appeal to a court to recognise the organisation as having ceased its activities as a legal personality and to delete it from the single state register of legal persons. (Article 13, Point 2)    THE RIGHT TO OPEN A REPRESENTATIVE BODY IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION MAY BE GRANTED TO A FOREIGN RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION. To open such a representative body, ..SUCH AN ORGANISATION presents an application to the organ OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF THE APPROPRIATE SUBJECT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, indicating the purposes for the activity of foreign representatives of a religious organisation, its statutes or other founding document, and also documents which confirm the legality of the foreign religious organisation in the country where resides its governing body, information on its basic beliefs and related religious practices, including a history of the religion and of the said organisation, the forms and methods of its activity, its attitude to the family and marriage, to education, the particular views on health of a given religion's adherents, limitations on its members and clergy as regards their civil rights and duties, AND ALSO INFORMATION IN THE POSSESSION OF THE FOREIGN RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF RUSSIAN RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS OF THE SAME CONFESSION. (Article 13, Point 3)  AN ORGAN OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF A SUBJECT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION WHICH SUPPORTS THE OPENING OF A REPRESENTATIVE BODY OF A FOREIGN RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION ON THE CORRESPONDING TERRITORY IS TO MAKE ITS DECISION IN AGREEMENT WITH THE FEDERAL ORGANS OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION.  The procedure for the registration, opening and closing of the foreign representation of a religious organisation is established by the government of the  Russian Federation in accordance with the law of the Russian Federation. (Article 14, Point 2) ...2. Grounds for liquidating a religious organisation or for banning the activities of a religious organisation or religious group by judicial order are...HINDERING A CITIZEN FROM LEAVING A RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION BY THREATENING HARM TO LIFE, HEALTH, PROPERTY IF THERE IS A DANGER OF THIS THREAT'S ACTUALLY BEING CARRIED OUT, OR BY USING FORCE OR OTHER ILLEGAL ACTIONS. (Article 14, Point 5) THE GROUNDS AND PROCEDURE FOR THE LIQUIDATION OF A RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION BY DECISION OF A COURT ALSO APPLY TO THE BANNING OF THE ACTIVITIES OF A RELIGIOUS GROUP. (Article 19, Point 3)  Citizens who are studying as resident students in departments of professional religious institutions which have state licences have the right to delay their military service IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS ON MILITARY SERVICE and to make use of other privileges granted  in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation. (Article 21, point 5)  Creditors may not institute proceedings against real estate or other property designated for worship purposes.  THE LIST OF TYPES OF PROPERTY DESIGNATED FOR WORSHIP SERVICES, AGAINST WHICH CREDITORS MAY NOT INSTITUTE PROCEEDINGS, IS TO BE ESTABLISHED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION ACCORDING TO THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS. (Article 27, Point 3)   (Article 27, Point 4)  The charters and other founding documents of religious ORGANISATIONS established before this federal law comes into force must be brought into conformity with this federal law.  Only those parts of the charters and other founding documents of religious ORGANISATIONS remain in force which do not contradict this federal law. (Article 27, Point 5)  The re-registration with the State of religious ORGANISATIONS created before this federal law has come into force must take place no later than 31 December 1999 in accordance with the requirements of this federal law.   Once this period has expired, religious ORGANISATIONS which have not completed re-registration MAY BE LIQUIDATED according to the law upon the demand of the body which conducts state registration of religious organisations. APPENDIX TWO: Here is Keston's translation of an alternate draft text of the bill's preamble, informally released by the Yeltsin administration on 21 August: The Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, confirming the right of each to freedom of conscience and freedom of creed, and also to equality before the law regardless of his attitudes to religion and his convictions; taking into account that the Russian Federation is a secular state; recognising the special contribution of Orthodoxy to the establishment of Russian statehood and to the development of Russia's spirituality and culture; respecting Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions and creeds which constitute an inseparable part of the historical heritage of Russia's peoples; seeking to assist the strengthening of the state's cooperation with religious associations existing in the Russian Federation and enjoying popular support; considering it important to promote the achievement of mutual understanding, tolerance and respect in questions of freedom of conscience and freedom of creed; hereby adopts this federal law 'On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations'.