Kiev, June 4, 2016
The Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament) Committee for Cultural and Spiritual Issues has recommended deputies to pass bill no. 4128 at the first reading, reports the Pravlife.org portal.
Bill no. 4128, “Amendments to the Ukrainian law on the freedom of conscience and religious organizations (for the changing of jurisdiction by religious communities)”, was considered on June 1 with the participation of representatives of religious denominations and the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine.
The Committee members noted that the aim of the draft law is to provide religious communities with the right to conscious choice and the free and unimpeded change of their subordination to religious centers.
In their view, passage of this law will be in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
During consideration of the bill the meeting participants made several amendments to the text. In the upshot the Committee voted by a majority to recommend to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada to adopt bill no. 4128 at the first reading in the new version.
Commenting on this decision, the Information and Education Department of the UOC-MP notes that among “representatives of religious denominations” at the Committee’s meeting the largest religious denomination – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate – was not represented. “That is why it is evident that the Committee’s meeting was a mere classic example of raiding with the involvement of the mechanism of the superior legislative body,” the comment reads.
“In deciding on the Elensky bill (no. 4128), the deputies ignored not only the opinion of millions of believers, but also of specialists of the Institute for Religious Freedom along with qualified lawyers of the Main Research and Expert Department of the Verkhovna Rada. Indeed, legal experts consider bill no. 4128 to be violating the obligations of Ukraine imposed by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and threatening the development of democracy,” the message stresses.
The bill was registered at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on February 23, 2016, the author of the legislative initiative being Viktor Elensky, a deputy of the People’s Front political party.
According to the Legal Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, “Amendments to the Ukrainian law on the freedom of conscience and religious organizations”, proposed by the deputy, are instrumental in legalizing the takeover of churches by raiding and pose a potential threat to Ukrainian society.
In the view of Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary, chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the bill is dangerous for the whole religious community of Ukraine and for the interfaith peace in the country.
It should be noted that according to the logic of the bill of V. Elensky, any outsider can consider himself a member of a certain parish and vote for its transition to another jurisdiction. Dozens of churches of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church have already been seized according to this pattern. His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry in his report at the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on January 29 this year noted that during the so-called voting at general meetings for the redistribution of parish areas, false ideas are propagated and “secular territorial divisions are identified with the areas covered by church parishes.”