Issue 5, Articles 22-24, 26 May 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.

Friday 26 May 2000

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

Despite its refusal to address the Jesuits' complaints that elements of Russia's
1997 law on religion are unconstitutional, the Constitutional Court has ruled
that the Independent Russian Region of the Society of Jesus will receive
reregistration. The superior of the Jesuits in Russia told Keston News Service
that the court's ruling solely addressed the Jesuits' reregistration without
addressing the law itself, while the Jesuits' lawyer indicated that the decision
was further evidence that the Constitutional Court was deliberately avoiding
ruling on whether the 1997 law is itself constitutional. However, in the wake of
the decision the Jesuits will be able once again to submit their reregistration
application in the hope that this time it will be accepted.

On 13 April, a plenary session of the Constitutional Court chaired by its
chairman MARAT BAGLAI considered the Jesuits' complaints that their
constitutional rights and freedoms were infringed by clauses 3, 4 and 5 of
article 8, articles 9 and 13, and clauses 3 and 4 of article 27 of the 1997 law.
The court ruled that that these disputed points, `taking into consideration their
constitutional-legal meaning', did not infringe upon the constitutional rights
and freedoms of the complainant (see separate KNS article).

`Having heard the conclusions of judge VALERI ZORKIN, who had made a
preliminary assessment of the complaints, and had taken into account the legal-
constitutional meaning of the articles of the law when applied to the
reregistration of organisations established before the law came into effect,'
GALINA KRYLOVA, the lawyer who represented the Jesuits at the
Constitutional Court, declared after the hearing, `the court decided on 13 April
that the Jesuits cannot be refused registration simply on the grounds that as a
result of the law the list of persons deemed eligible to be founder members of a
given organisation had been altered. Thus the court decided that the complaint
did not merit further consideration and the question could be resolved without
passing a fundamental resolution.'

`The Constitutional Court did not want to alter the anticonstitutional articles of
the law, but simply bring about a positive resolution to our problem,' the
Moscow-based superior of the Independent Russian Region of the Society of
Jesus, Father STANISLAW OPIELA, told Keston on 17 May. `It interprets the
law from the standpoint of the Constitution, and does not give an interpretation
from the standpoint of the law itself. The only alteration they did make was to
abolish the law's retroactive force.'

Krylova reported that the Jesuits' complaint reached the court before those
submitted by the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Pentecostals had been
considered. `These complaints were not considered together although the law
on the Constitutional Court presupposes that similar complaints will be
addressed at the same time.' Krylova believes the decision of 23 November
1999 relating to the Jehovah's Witness and Pentecostal complaints (see KNS 26
November 1999) was so limited that it did not prevent discrimination on
religious grounds, even if it formally satisfied the concerns of the specific
complainants. `Such a ruling leads one to conclude that in the future the
Constitutional Court will continue to avoid making a full reassessment of the
law so that it does not have to acknowledge that the law itself is

The Independent Russian Region of the Society of Jesus was registered in
Moscow on 30 September 1992 in accordance with the 1990 Russian Law on
Freedom of Conscience. When the Society of Jesus submitted its statutes for
reregistration to comply with the 1997 law requiring compulsory reregistration,
the Ministry of Justice gave four reasons for refusing: firstly, because the
Society was founded by foreigners; secondly because it did not include any
local structures (i.e. three local organisations established by ten Russian
citizens); thirdly because it had not furnished any proof of having been
established on Russian territory for at least 50 years; and finally because local
organisations must be established by Russian citizens, and religious
organisations do not have the right to create other local religious organisations.

Krylova reports that in Russia there are around 50 Jesuits - both foreign and
Russian citizens - although in no one place are there ten Russian citizens who
are members of the Order. This prevents the Jesuits achieving registration as a
local religious organisation and thus organising themselves in accordance with
their canonical structure, despite the fact that article 15 of the religion law
guarantees that the state respects the right of religious organisations to
determine their own internal structures. In appealing to the Constitutional
Court, the Russian Society of Jesus argued that the articles of the law on
religion on which the refusal to reregister the Society was based contravened
the constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience, freedom to choose a
denominational affiliation, the freedom of association and the equality of
religious organisations before the law.

ALEKSANDR KUDRYAVTSEV, head of the department for the registration
of religious organisations at the Ministry of Justice, told Keston on 17 May that
the ministry would abide by the Constitutional Court ruling and reregister the
Jesuits. Asked what category of religious organisation the Russian Jesuits fall
into when applying for reregistration, he explained that the law envisages three
separate categories of religious organisation: a local religious organisation
established by ten Russian citizens; a centralised religious organisation
established by three local organisations; and a religious organisation founded
by another religious body. `In the light of the decision of the Constitutional
Court,' he told Keston, `the Jesuits belong to the third category, that is a
religious organisation founded by another religious body, in accordance with
clause 3 article 8. In other words, they are accorded the same status they had
when they were first registered.' Kudryavtsev affirmed that the Jesuits could
continue to function in the whole of the Russian Federation, even though they
were not defined as a centralised organisation. Kudryavtsev told Keston that
the same formula, `religious organisation founded by another religious body',
was applied when the Synod departments, Russian Orthodox dioceses and the
Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate were
reregistered. (END)

Friday 26 May 2000

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The Constitutional Court issued its ruling in the case brought by the
Independent Russian Region of the Society of Jesus on 13 April. The Court
declared that its decision is `full and final' and `cannot be revoked'.

The legal preamble to the Constitutional Court decision - which runs to eight
pages, with a further two pages devoted to the decision itself - states that
individual articles of the 1997 law had already been the subject of a review by
the Constitutional Court. In a decision of 23 November 1999, assessing the
constitutionality of paragraphs 3 and 4, clause 3 of article 27, the Constitutional
Court resolved that these did not contradict the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court also decreed that the articles cited by the Jesuits in
their complaint relating to the treatment of religious organisations established
before the 1997 law came into effect, taking into account their constitutional-
legal meaning, also did not contravene the Constitution. This was based on the
fact that `if a religious organisation, which was established before the new law
on freedom of conscience and religious associations came into force and which
had the right of full juridical personality, because of particular features of its
organisational structure cannot be defined as a local or a centralised religious
organisation, it can, in accordance with clause 6, article 8, indicate in its
statutes that it belongs to another legitimate category of religious organisation,
which will enable it to obtain reregistration and enjoy full legal rights'. As far
as those who have been refused registration are concerned, `an investigation of
the legitimacy or legal applicability of such decisions does not fall within the
competence of the Constitutional Court'.

Taking all this into account, the Constitutional Court determined: `The
Constitutional rights and freedoms of the religious group, the Independent
Russian Region of the Society of Jesus, are not infringed by clauses 3, 4, and 5
of article 8, by articles 9 and 13 or by clauses 3 and 4 of article 27 of the
Federal Law in their application to religious organisations founded before the
current Law came into force, since such organisations, in accordance with the
decision of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation of 23 November
1999 and clause 2 of the legal preamble to this Decision, enjoy full rights of
juridical personality. When applying for reregistration they are permitted to
indicate in their statutes that their religious organisation belongs to any of the
legally defined categories of organisation stipulated by article 8, without
having to establish new organisations, including territorial branches, to comply
with the legal-organisational structures implied. Religious organisations may
employ the words "Russia" or "Russian" in their titles if they used these terms
before the current law came into force and they were functioning legally on
Russian territory when they submitted their documents for reregistration.
Moreover, if the activities of a religious organisation were stopped for reasons
resulting not from the nature of its activity but as a result of illegal decisions
and actions of state organs and their representatives, this matter should not be
disregarded.' (END)

Friday 26 May 2000

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

Despite the limitations of the 13 April Constitutional Court ruling in the case
brought by the Independent Russian Region of the Society of Jesus (see
separate KNS story), the ruling does increase the rights of religious
organisations that already had registration when the more restrictive 1997 law
on religion came into force. The superior of the Jesuit Order in Russia told
Keston News Service that the ruling will have a positive effect not only for the
Jesuits but in other cases, by increasing the protection for religious
organisations that already had registration when the 1997 law took effect, a
view echoed by the Jesuits' lawyer. An official of the Justice Ministry in
Moscow told Keston that while religious organisations registered before 1997
will continue to enjoy the rights they had before the more restrictive 1997 law
was adopted, newly-registered religious organisations will not enjoy these
same rights.

Moscow-based lawyer GALINA KRYLOVA, who represented the Jesuits at
the Constitutional Court, believes that the decision has significantly restricted
the scope for the indirect application of discriminatory norms in the
reregistration of religious organisations. `Many religious organisations which
had previously been forced to change their organisational-legal structures or
fulfil certain conditions to achieve reregistration as part of a centralised
organisation may now regain their own hierarchical and institutional
structures,' she declared. `If they have been registered before, the local justice
authorities cannot refuse them reregistration on the grounds that they were
founded by unsuitable individuals or that the law has determined a different
procedure for their foundation. By the same token the single principle for the
creation of a religious organisation introduced by the law has also been altered.
In essence, a literal interpretation of the law has been substituted by its
"constitutional legal meaning" declared by the constitutional court, which has
had the effect of making the law significantly more lenient without actually
amending it.'

Father STANISLAW OPIELA, the superior of the Independent Russian
Region of the Society of Jesus, is only partially satisfied with the
Constitutional Court ruling, maintaining that it fails to resolve all the problems
connected with the 1997 religion law. However, he argues that the ruling does
provide `a positive precedent' at least for those which were registered before

ALEKSANDR KUDRYAVTSEV, head of the department for the registration
of religious organisations at the Ministry of Justice, confirmed that religious
groups that had registration before the change in the law would retain their
original rights. `The meaning of the Constitutional Court decision is that in
effect those religious organisations which had been registered before should be
reregistered preserving their original status,' he told Keston on 17 May.
`However, if it were a newly-established religious organisation it would not be
granted such rights.' (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.