KESTON NEWS SERVICE
Issue 10, Articles 2-3, 3 October 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
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SUMMARIES
I. AZERBAIJAN: ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK FOR
ALIABAD BAPTISTS: The Aliabad Baptist church submitted it registration
application today, but the Administration for Religious Affairs in Baku will not
pass it along to the Ministry of Justice until the Aliabad local administration
signs a statement that it has no objections to the church being registered. Such a
delay has happened before, but Keston received confirmation that the
procedure could go differently this time.

II. LATVIA: CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS TO TRY AGAIN FOR
REGISTRATION. To gain registration, the Christian Scientists will have to
convince the Justice Ministry to reject the verdicts on their faith given earlier
by the Riga Theology Department and by the Doctor�s Association.

Tuesday 3 October 2000
AZERBAIJAN: ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK FOR
ALIABAD BAPTISTS

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Veteran registration `refuseniks' of the Baptist church in the northern
Azerbaijani town of Aliabad lodged their latest registration application with the
government's Administration for Religious Affairs in Baku on 2 October.
However, the church does not yet have the required letter from the local
administration in Aliabad declaring that it does not oppose the church's
registration.

As Administration official ALEKSANDR KOZLOV, who handles Christian
affairs, told Keston News Service from Baku on 3 October, the church must
have the document for the application to be processed. `Under Azerbaijani law,
a religious group has to get a certificate from the local authorities declaring that
they have nothing against the registration of that group.' He pledged that as
soon as the administration receives this certificate then the documents would be
passed on to the Justice Ministry with a recommendation to register the church.
He confirmed that the there were no problems with the other documents
submitted as part of the registration application.

Asked what would happen if the Aliabad authorities refusd to issue a document
supporting the church's registration application, as they have done in the past,
Kozlov declared that his Administration would seek reasons from the Aliabad
authorities. `If they have no justifiable reasons, we will pass on the church's
application to the Justice Ministry anyway with a recommendation to register
it.'

The Aliabad Baptist church is believed to hold the record for the Azerbaijani
religious community that has been refused registration the longest. It has been
waiting some five and a half years (see KNS 29 September 2000). (END)


Tuesday 3 October 2000
LATVIA: CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS TO TRY AGAIN FOR
REGISTRATION

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Latvia's small Christian Science Church is to try again for registration, several
years after its previous three attempts to gain official recognition were blocked
by the Justice Ministry after a negative assessment by the country's Doctors'
Association, concerned about the church's teaching on healing, and by Riga
University's Department of Theology. The Christian Science leader in Latvia
told Keston News Service that negotiations have been under way with the
Doctors' Association and that a further application will be submitted to the
Justice Ministry as soon as the documents are ready.

The Christian Science Church, founded in the nineteenth century by the
American MARY BAKER EDDY, teaches that spiritual healing through prayer
is a reality and is usually the first choice in cases of illness. However, the
Church does not forbid members to seek medical treatment and they are free to
choose whichever form of treatment they need.

To gain registration, the Christian Scientists will have to convince the Justice
Ministry to reject the verdicts on their faith given in May 1997 by the Riga
Theology Department - which declared that the group's name was `deceptive',
that it was not a world religion as its doctrines varied in 15 key points from
those of most Christian denominations, and that its `medical' practice violated
Latvian law - and by the Doctor's Association, which also declared that its
practice of `healing without medicine' contradicted Latvian law and the ethical
code of the Doctors' Association. The Theology Department also maintained
that Eddy was `mentally ill or at least unbalanced'.

Christian Science leader VALDIS BUMANIS told Keston by telephone from
the Latvian capital Riga on 28 September that a Christian Scientist from Italy
had held `unofficial meetings' in August with the Doctors' Association and
other bodies, which led them to believe that they would adopt a `positive
stance' to the new application. Bumanis described the previous negative
assessment by the Association as `absurd'. `We should not have to change
anything in our application from last time,' he declared. `We will submit
basically the same text, with some additional material giving more information
about our beliefs and about our registration in other countries.' Bumanis added
that the church hopes to lodge the application within the next weeks.

RINGOLDS BALODIS, Director of the Department of Religious and Social
Affairs of the Ministry of Justice, told Keston from Riga on 28 September that
his department had heard nothing from the Christian Science church since their
latest application was rejected in March 1999. Asked why their application had
been blocked in the past, he declared simply: `They did not fulfil the
requirements.' He confirmed that his Ministry had initially refused registration
in May 1997 in the wake of the assessment given by the Doctors' Association.
`They said it was not possible to register them. They did not give specific
reasons, but they were concerned about the church's specific teachings about
health, including healing.' He stated that if the church felt that the denial of
registration had been unjust they should have challenged the decision in court,
which they had failed to do.

Balodis declared that if the church submitted a new application, it would be
considered, though he added that the Ministry would once again seek guidance
from the Doctors' Association. `We are not able to say if the Christian
Scientists are against human health. We are lawyers, not doctors,' he told
Keston. `Everything depends on what is in the group's statute. Other groups did
not include anything on healing. We have to check out registration applications
and have to be careful not to allow groups that harm safety.'

Dr ILZE AIZSILNIECE, deputy head of the Doctors' Association who has
been involved in the question, told Keston on 30 September that there were
various opinions within the Association about whether the Christian Scientists
should be registered. She declared that as Association president Dr
VEESTURS BOKA now sat on the board created by the Ministry of Justice to
review registration applications, there should no longer be a need for the
Association itself to be involved in assessing the application. Told that Balodis
had indicated that any new application would go to the Association, she
declared: `That is news to me.'

She noted that articles in the Latvian press earlier this year �may influence� the
decision on registration. The articles reported the legal case over the death in
1989 of a son of Christian Science parents in the American city of Boston after
they chose prayer over hospital treatment . `There was a bad case in Latvia
back in spring 1997 when a Jehovah's Witness girl died after refusing a blood
transfusion,' Dr Aizsilniece declared. `That really affected the Christian
Science decision, although this was a different faith.' She added that personally
she believed people in Latvia were capable of making decisions themselves
about what they should do.

Bumanis recounted that the Christian Science church has some 25 members in
Latvia, mostly in Riga. The church meets on Fridays and Sundays in premises
rented from a Riga museum and has not encountered any practical obstacles to
functioning publicly despite the disadvantages of not having registration.
Latvia's 1995 religion law accords religious organisations certain rights and
privileges when they register, such as status as a separate legal entity for
owning property or other financial transactions, as well as tax benefits for
donors. Registration also eases the rules for public gatherings.

SUSANNE THIESING, Branch Activities Coordinator at the Christian Science
headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, confirmed to Keston on 26 September
that `the mother church' had recently sent information needed by the church in
Latvia for it to resubmit its registration application, but added that the church
had reached `a sensitive point in the approval process' and declined all further
comment. (END)