LITHUANIA: Justice Ministry Recommends Extending Rights of 'Recognised Faiths'.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 22 June 2001

Although no faith - including the Baptist Union - has yet succeeded in obtaining the status of a `recognised' faith (see separate KNS article), the second-ranking category in Lithuania's complex and controversial four-tier system, new proposals from the Ministry of Justice would grant any faiths that obtain this status the same rights and privileges accorded to the eight `traditional' faiths, Keston News Service has learnt.

Donatas Glodenis, senior official of the section of registers at the justice ministry, told Keston by telephone from Vilnius on 22 June that the parliamentary human rights committee had asked his ministry at the beginning of June to clarify the legal position over the differences between `traditional' and `recognised' faiths. In its response, signed by deputy justice minister Paulius Koverovas, the justice ministry reaffirmed its earlier view that both `traditional' and `recognised' faiths should have exactly the same rights. `Recognition is a legal status, while traditional is an honorary label,' Glodenis explained. `This is the correct interpretation of the 1995 law on religious communities and associations, which didn't distinguish between traditional and recognised faiths. This is what the letter defined.'

Keston has been unable to obtain a copy of the justice ministry's letter. Glodenis declined to make a copy available, describing it as an `internal' document between the government and parliament that would not be published.

It remains unclear whether parliament will take up the recommendations in the letter that laws that grant differing rights and privileges to the two categories be amended to bring them into line with the ministry's interpretation of the 1995 law. `This would entail amending a whole series of laws,' Glodenis declared. `Just one example is the law on education, which grants traditional faiths the right to teach their faith in state schools but does not extend this right to recognised faiths.'

Keston was unable to reach any members or officials of the parliamentary human rights committee on 22 June to find out if parliament is likely to amend any laws to meet the recommendations of the justice ministry. (END)