keston

Legal Force Applied On Repressive Religion Law

Come 16 November, Belarus repressive new religion law will enter into legal force. According to the new law, all unregistered religious activities conducted privately will stand illegal. Keston News Service also learned that the law will not approve any kind of religious material without prior censorship and communities with less than 20 members will also be considered illegal. These changes are applicable for natives as well as foreign citizens.

As learned by Keston News Service, the religion laws at Belarus will be revised on Saturday 16 November. After entering legal force, the religion laws will restrict all unregistered religious activities and will declare them illegal. Apart from this, the communities meeting the lower limit of 20 members in total and those without a formal license to function will be unable to invite foreigners to work for them. The law also applies to the established religious literature which will be ineffective unless passed through formal censorship.

The new religion law after the formal approval by the President of the country, Aleksandr Lukashenko (31st October) was published on 5 November in the newspaper Zvyazda (Belarus) and on 12th November in the country’s news Narodnaya gazeta (Russia). According to the rule, it will enter the legal force exactly ten days after its official publication. As revealed by the sources the new law has been met with opposition as it happens to be Europe’s most oppressive religion law.

In addition to the restrictions, according to the newly imposed law it’s compulsory for religious organizations to re-register within the next two years. The religious committees of the country have started to abide by the newly formed regulations already.  
Aleksandr Kalinov of the State Committee for Religious and Ethnic Affairs reassured that the religious bodies will not lose their credibility and legal status even if they don’t meet the criteria set by the new law.  He specifically declared, “None of the committees’ legal status will be degraded”.

The statement by Kalinov met skepticism by the observers. On the same day, that this statement was made, the executive director Oleg Gulak, designated for the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, told Keston, “They always say that laws have no retroactive force, but I would have to think otherwise, in this case”.

The authorities are repeatedly being reported of the restricted religious activity in the country. Incident like believers in the church of Minsk’s Frunze district not being allowed to pray in their language wasn’t given much air. A local spokesperson for the Pentecostal Union shared his opinion about the imposition of the new law stating that “I actually fear the persisting situation won't be under the control of the central authorities”.