KESTON NEWS SERVICE, 11.00, 3 November 2000

The church�s pastor links the expulsion of two Americans who had attended
his church and worked with local school children to the local government�s
refusal to register his church.


by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service

Despite using a standard statute drawn up by its umbrella body and used to
register more than ten congregations elsewhere in Ukraine, an Evangelical
church has been refused registration in the Crimean Black Sea port of
Sevastopol. The rejection appears to be linked to the expulsion of two
American teachers from Sevastopol last summer (see KNS 29 September
2000). It seems that the Sevastopol department for religious affairs fears the
involvement in the church of children from the same school where the
Americans used to work. However, its demands that the church changes the
statute under which it wishes to register appear to be unfounded in law. The
church's pastor Igor Tukai told Keston News Service in Sevastopol that he
believed the registration was deliberately being dragged out.

The church insists it will continue to push for registration in the wake of what it
regards as the unjustified double-refusal. `We have forwarded our documents to
Kiev, to our Association of Missionary Churches of Evangelical Christians of
Ukraine,' Tukai told Keston on 26 October, `and await their decision.' His
church - which belongs to the Kiev-based Association - is not empowered to
amend the standard statute alone.

Pastor Tukai reported that the first time the church applied for registration was
last July and a month later the department for religious affairs in Sevastopol
officially rejected it on the grounds that `the application had not been approved
by a notary'. Registration procedure requires an application to be signed by ten
people, but Pastor Tukai pointed out that `nobody had ever required it to be
approved by a notary'. However, the church decided to meet this demand and
applied for the second time at the end of August, having attached a standard
statute approved by their Association.

Rejection followed again at the end of September after the religious affairs
department objected to a number of the statute's provisions. It particularly
objected to a clause which states that the church's activity is guided by `the
Bible, the Constitution of Ukraine, current legislation and the statute',
suggesting that it should be replaced by `the Constitution of Ukraine, current
legislation, the Bible and the statute'. The department disagreed over who could
be a member of the church. The statute declares that `any person who believes
in Jesus Christ and is baptised with water' can become a member. However, the
department suggested that this clause should be replaced by `any person who
has reached the age of 18 can become a member of the Church'. Pastor Tukai
said that when he refused to make the changes demanded of the church,
department official Oleg Kotlyarov halted the discussion and promised to send
the rejection `in writing'.

`We directly connect the complications in the registration with the recent
events,' Pastor Tukai declared in a reference to the expulsion by the city
procuracy last July of the two US citizens Averille Carlisle and Cynthia
Megginson. The two Americans, expelled from Sevastopol on charges of
violating the law on the status of aliens, were accused of illegal religious
activity at school 19 where they taught English. Galina Eryomenko, the head
teacher of the school, was accused of protecting and participating in such
activity within the school. All three women had attended the church Tukai

`We could refuse them on the basis of Article 15 of the law on religion,'
Kotlyarov told Keston in an interview in his office on 30 October. `This article
bans the registration of statutes of religious communities whose activity
contradicts current legislation.' Kotlyarov pointed to the activity of church
member Eryomenko, claiming that it had been found to contradict the law on
education. However, he did not say that his office demanded Eryomenko be
excluded from the application letter.

Kotlyarov told Keston that their department's lawyer required the statute to be
brought into line with Article 14 of the religion law, which limits applicants for
registration to those 18 and over. However neither this article nor other articles
of the religion law stipulate any age limitation for becoming a member of a
religious organisation. It was this point that proved the stumbling block
resulting in the written refusal. `I remembered all those children at the school,'
Kotlyarov confessed in a reference to the school where the Americans used to
teach. He also confirmed that their office disagreed with the role the statute
attributed to the Bible and issues on exemption from taxes.

Although Kotlyarov is satisfied with the application letter now that it has been
notarised, he still rejects the statute. `As soon as our requirements are met the
statute will be registered,' he declared.

Pastor Tukai insisted to Keston that Kotlyarov continues to pressure the church
not to baptise children under 18. He also claimed that in the wake of the
expulsion of the American teachers, the SBU (the former KGB) listens in to
their telephone communications and reads their mail. (END)