The State Duma will consider a bill “On traditional religious organizations in the Russian Federation” this spring. The bill has been developed by Deputy Chairman of the Committee for public associations and religious organizations Alexander Chuyev. One of the bill’s main objectives is to prevent activation of numerous sects, non-traditional religious and pseudo-religious organizations and increase the support to traditional religions. As of now, the bill has been submitted for public consideration, sent to the state authority structures and different public and political organizations.
According to the new bill, the notion “a traditional confession” can be applied to the organizations that have been active for not less than 80 years already and that unite more than one million of the faithful. Such organizations are to be an integral part of Russia’s historical legacy, like Orthodoxy, Christianity (other Christian religions are meant), Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. At the initial stage these five confessions are to be ranked among the traditional ones.
Also the bill provides for creation of a federal commission for support to the traditional religions attached to the President. The commission will consider further increase of the list; it will be authorized to confer the status of traditional religions to other religious organizations.
The bill provides for a stipulation: religion may have a different traditional status. So, a traditional religion of “some separate nation” is to have not one million, but not less than 100,000 followers.
The commission will be responsible for determining, whether a new candidate to be a traditional religion is a part of Russia’s historical, cultural and religious legacy. It is a really hard task, as it is impossible to draw such conclusions on the ground of the facts, figures and statements submitted by the organizations.
Indeed, the necessity for creation of such a law to regulate the relations between the church and the state has been pressing for a long period already. It is perfectly clear now that the law “On liberty of conscience and religions” is not sufficient for Russia now. The state is to stimulate traditional religious associations (Orthodoxy, first of all) to resist the religious extremism and numerous preachers and missionaries who invade Russia from the West.
How can the traditional confessions be supported? First of all, the confessions are to be given an opportunity of free appearance in the mass media, to be allowed to teach the fundamentals of their believes at schools and to be exempted from income tax and value-added tax. The new bill provides for every condition mentioned above.
It is clear that not all parliamentarians are to support the bill “On traditional religious organizations in the Russian Federation”. For example, famous liberals from the Union of Right-wing forces are to vote against the bill. Irina Khakamada, a deputy from the Union of Right-wing forces, thinks the bill is “not only bad, but even dangerous”.
The new bill has already given rise to apprehensions that it will contradict the Constitution, that none of the religions may get the status of public on the territory of “the secular state”, etc. Such is the opinion of co-chairman of the Russian mufti council Nafigulla Ashirov. He told in a wireless interview, “the law on a secular state and detachment of the church meets Russia’s federative structure, its history and today’s democratic line.” One of the authors of the Constitution in force, ex-deputy of the State Duma Viktor Sheinis shares the opinion; he says, “the church is gradually attacking the secular state.”
But the adversaries of the bill simply use substitution of the notions: they see what they want to see. But the bill provides only for the state’s stimulation, protection and support to the traditional religious organizations. No “status of a public religion”, that is also to be obligatory for everyone, is to be applied to confessions.
Sergey Yugov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/11/36900.html