KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 13 June 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. RUSSIA: TWO DRAFT RELIGIOUS POLICIES PUBLISHED. On 8
June two draft religious policies for Russia were published on the Internet
site maintained by the Institute for State-
Confessional Relations and Law (ISCRL) in cooperation with the religious
faculty of the Russian Academy for State Service (RASS) and the Moscow
City Department of Justice. So far neither has the approval of the
presidential administration. ISCRL informed Keston Institute by e-mail only
about the draft policy it co-authored, which calls for tighter legal control of
religious organisations. Reactions to this draft � by, among others, the head
of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations,
Metropolitan Kirill - will be reported in tomorrow�s Keston News Service.

II. RUSSIA: RASS DRAFT RELIGIOUS POLICY EMPHASISES
SECULAR STATE. The second draft policy to be published on 8 June,
'Conceptual Bases for Church-State Relations in the Russian Federation,' has
been produced by the religious faculty of the Russian Academy for State
Service (RASS). As already indicated to Keston in March, its main emphasis
is on the Russian Federation as a secular state. One of its recommendations
is the re-creation of a federal state organ for affairs with religious
organisations, like the Soviet-era Council for Religious Affairs.

I. RUSSIA: TWO DRAFT RELIGIOUS POLICIES PUBLISHED

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

On 8 June two draft religious policies for Russia were published on the
Internet site maintained by the Institute for State-
Confessional Relations and Law (ISCRL) in cooperation with the religious
faculty of the Russian Academy for State Service (RASS) and the Moscow
City Department of Justice. So far neither has the approval of the
presidential administration.

In an 8 June e-mail message to Keston, however, ISCRL drew attention to
only one of the draft policies - 'Concept of State Policy in the Sphere of
Relations with Religious Organisations in the Russian Federation', which it
co-authored with the assistant head of the Moscow City Department of
Justice, Vladimir Zhbankov. ISCRL is headed by Igor Ponkin, co-author of a
28 February 2000 letter from RASS warning that foreign missionaries are
agents of western powers engaged in a plot to seize Russia's Far East. The
Moscow City Department of Justice is perhaps best known for refusing to
reregister local organisations of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Salvation
Army.

While claiming that the basic principles in the Russian state's religious
policy should include the equality of all religious organisations before the
law, ISCRL's draft policy goes significantly further than the current 1997
law on religion in calling for 'the legal consolidation of criteria defining the
traditional-ness of religious organisations in Russia and their corresponding
status.'

According to the draft policy, the state should cooperate with and assist
traditional religious organisations in a wide range of spheres, such as
education, social security and the mass media. A religious organisation is
defined as traditional if it a) 'has had a significant influence on the formation
and development of Russian statehood and played a great historical role in
the development of the national self-consciousness of the peoples of the
Russian Federation,' b) 'has safeguarded the formation and development of
the traditional spirituality and culture of the peoples of Russia and formed a
part of the spiritual, national and cultural heritage of the Russian Federation',
c) 'is a religious organisation, adherence to and a preferential regard for
which is expressed by a significant proportion of citizens of the Russian
Federation.' and d) 'functions as a creative and unifying spiritual force in
Russian society and is directed towards support for the peace and stability of
the Russian Federation.'

In this context the draft policy refers to the Russian Orthodox Church, Islam,
Old Belief 'and other religions which are traditional for Russia and their
corresponding traditional religious organisations.' A separate category of
'traditional religious organisations of individual peoples of the Russian
Federation' is also stipulated: these are organisations which 'profess
doctrines with a historically limited area of dissemination or which are
primarily associated with particular national (ethnic) communities.' Such
organisations are to enjoy the same privileges of traditional religious
organisations, but 'within the confines of the historical territory of their
dissemination (Buddhism, traditional religions of the peoples of the North)
or within particular national (ethnic) communities.'

The draft policy specifies a number of problems in the sphere of state-
confessional relations in Russia, such as 'threats to the preservation and
development of the cultural identity and spiritual distinctiveness of the
peoples of Russia', 'foreign religious expansion into Russia as an element in
the foreign policy of a number of foreign states' and 'activisation of the
activity of religious organisations which damage the morality, health, rights
and legal interests of citizens.' These problems are not being addressed, the
draft policy's authors argue, due to legal flaws in the current Russian law on
religion, which, they conclude, 'should be reworked to take into account the
provisions of this Concept.' (END)

II. RUSSIA: RASS DRAFT RELIGIOUS POLICY EMPHASISES
SECULAR STATE

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

The second draft policy to be published on 8 June, 'Conceptual Bases for
Church-State Relations in the Russian Federation,' has been produced by the
religious faculty of the Russian Academy for State Service (RASS). As
indicated to Keston by faculty employee Veronika Kravchuk on 15 March,
its main emphasis is on the Russian Federation as a secular state.

Three times the length of ISCRL's draft policy, the RASS text includes a
close analysis of the history and current position of state-confessional
relations in Russia, and makes observations which would appear to be
unprecedented for a state body. Among the reasons for the growth in
religiosity in Russia during the 1990s, notes the draft policy, was a tendency
for 'de-facto non-believers to associate their nationality with a particular
historical religious tradition (Russian - Orthodoxy, Tatar - Muslim, Kalmyk -
Buddhist etc).' Another was the influx of neophytes into all confessions,
'many of whom have a very vague notion about the basic beliefs and
canonical norms of the religion to which they have recently converted, but
nevertheless display intolerance towards those of other beliefs and
nonbelievers.'

Since the head of the RASS religious faculty, Nikolai Trofimchuk, is author
of 'Expansion', a recent book detailing the presence of foreign missionaries
in Russia as a disturbing geopolitical phenomenon, the draft policy's
reference to the need to regulate foreign religious influence is to be expected.
Surprisingly, however, it is much less alarmist than ISCRL's text; while
noting that 'destabilisation in the religious and socio-psychological situation'
has taken place as a result of the appearance of nontraditional confessions
and new religious movements in Russia, the draft policy remarks that this is
'a legitimate consequence of the process of democratisation of society.' Local
laws prohibiting or limiting missionary activity by representatives of foreign
religious organisations in a number of subjects of the Russian Federation,
add the RASS authors, were adopted 'under pressure from the diocesan
hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, and sometimes also Muslim
clergy'.

If such open acknowledgement of church influence on state affairs also
strikes one as unprecedented for a state body, yet sterner criticism of what
the draft policy terms 'clerical tendencies' is expressed elsewhere: 'Although
church hierarchs and the ruling organs of confessions � primarily the
Russian Orthodox Church and Muslim organisations - declare themselves
removed from politics, they are in fact involved in the games of political
forces, and in a certain way they influence the social-political processes
taking place in the country with their positions and statements. There are
some attempts by church circles to utilise the political situation in order to
safeguard their corporate interests by demonstrating their support for
structures of power.'

Similarly to but more broadly than ISCRL's draft policy, the RASS text
recognises a system of state-confessional relations in which religious
organisations participate in those social spheres where their and the state' s
interests coincide, such as charitable initiatives, the restoration of historical
and cultural heritage and support for the institution of the family. The RASS
authors observe that this arrangement - which they prefer to term 'partition'
rather than 'separation' from the state - is gradually acquiring the
characteristics of cooperation, or partnership, in Russia. Here too, however,
warning is given that more developed and albeit fruitful cooperation with
certain confessions - 'above all the Russian Orthodox Church' - would lead to
'the violation of constitutional principles and impingement of the rights of
religious minorities.'

In this area, while emphasising that the status of legal personality should be
genuinely accessible to religious associations, the RASS authors recommend
that additional legal norms be introduced according to which a 'traditional'
status analogous to that of some other countries would be determined
'according to the length of time the organisation has existed, the number of
its believers and so on.' While all religious associations would thus have 'all
rights necessary to profess their confession', claims the RASS text,
organisations granted traditional status would additionally receive 'privileges
and state support for individual aspects of their socially significant activity.'

In its recommendations for state-confessional relations in some specific
spheres, however, the draft policy strives for a non-partisan approach. With
regard to property, notes RASS, restitution to religious organisations takes
place 'at the expense of all Russian citizens, most of whom did not
participate in the repressive policies of the past, while in practice the
beneficiaries are the present-day members of a religious organisation, most
of whom cannot be said to have suffered.' The much-called for introduction
of alternative military service would be unsatisfactory, suggests the draft
policy, since it would serve only conscientious objectors and leave
unresolved the problem of providing equal opportunity for religious worship
to all conscripts. A better solution, suggest the RASS authors, would be not
to have a conscript army at all, but a professional one. Also receiving notable
emphasis on its secular nature in the RASS draft policy is state education:
'Teachers ought to understand clearly the difference between teaching
information about religion and religious (confessional) education.'

The main proposal made by the RASS text, however, is none of these
recommendations. During the 1990s, it notes, the Soviet-era Council for
Religious Affairs (CRA) was replaced by 'a whole string of state and social
structures, whose combined staff outnumber that of the former CRA' and
between which there is a great lack of coordination. Formation of a single
state policy in the religious sphere will only be possible, argue the RASS
authors, 'once the activity of all these organs is coordinated in a single
subordination' - to a federal state organ for affairs with religious
organisations. (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.