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THE LEGISLATION OF UKRAINE ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
15 July 2015 09:13

The formation of an independent Ukrainian state led to fundamental changes of church-state relations, with priority given to human rights and support international instruments relating to human rights and freedoms, including freedom of conscience.

April 23, 1991 Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Law of Ukraine "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations".  The action was made in the context of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the documents which were signed in the framework of the Helsinki Accords, which are directly related to issues of freedom of conscience, religion, church.

The specific nature of the activity of religious organizations is reflected in the specific provisions of the existing legislation which clarifies specifies the legal status of religious organizations, the possibilities and conditions for the performance of its functional role in society. The legislation of Ukraine which regulates all legal relations connected with freedom of conscience, is a holistic system of regulations containing rules of various branches of law: administrative, civil, criminal and etc.

Fundamentals, guarantees, conditions and the exercise of human rights and freedoms, including freedom of conscience, were reflected in the articles of the second section "Rights, freedoms and duties of man and citizen" of the Constitution of Ukraine, adopted at the fifth session of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine June 28, 1996.

The Constitution of Ukraine in Article 35 states as follows:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of personal philosophy and religion. This right includes the freedom to profess or not to profess any religion, to perform alone or collectively and without constraint religious rites and ceremonial rituals, and to conduct religious activity.

The exercise of this right may be restricted by law only in the interests of protecting public order, the health and morality of the population, or protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons.

The Church and religious organizations in Ukraine are separated from the State, and the school – from the Church. No religion shall be recognized by the State as mandatory. No one shall be relieved of his or her duties before the State or refuse to perform the laws for reasons of religious beliefs. In the case that the performance of military duty is contrary to the religious beliefs of a citizen, the performance of this duty shall be replaced by alternative (nonmilitary) service”.

Freedom of belief and religion (freedom of conscience), as well as other basic human rights and freedoms (including the right to freedom of thought and speech, free expression of opinions and convictions (Art. 34)), are considered in the Constitution as inalienable and inviolable (Art. 21).

The Constitution of Ukraine, the legislation on freedom of conscience (freedom of belief and religion) consider this statement as a personal human right to freely and independently determine their attitude to religion. This right, as written in the Law of Ukraine "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations" dated April 23, 1991 p., includes freedom to have, adopt and change the religion or belief of the choice, and freedom alone or together with others to profess any religion or profess no religion, to perform religious worship, to express openly and freely disseminate their religious or atheist beliefs. The law does not permit the establishment of mandatory beliefs and outlook, any compulsion of citizens in determining their attitude to religion, to profess or refusal of exercise of religion, participation or non-participation in religious services, religious rites and ceremonies, teaching religion. A guaranteed right of parents (or persons replacing them) to bring up their children according to their own beliefs and religion and the right to secrecy of confession.

On June 4, 2015 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Resolution on the Plan for Legislative Support to Reforms (Resolution number 2986), which contains a number of initiatives in the field of freedom of conscience and religion.

The Chapter VII of the Plan namely "National Dialogue. Humanitarian policy" contains a separate section on policy in the sphere of culture, religion and spirituality. Among the reforms in this sphere the parliamentary majority plans to prepare and adopt the following bills:

- The concept of church-state relations: IV quarter 2015 - 2016;

- On amendments to the Law of Ukraine "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations" (concerning the right to peaceful assembly and the clarification concerning the supervisory authorities): Second quarter 2015 - 2016;

- On amendments to some laws of Ukraine (regarding introduction of military clergy (chaplains) in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, law enforcement and other military formations): IV quarter 2015 - 2016 (July 2, 2014 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted the prescription № 677- p "On service of a military clergy (chaplains service) in the Armed Forces, the National Guard and the State Border Service," by which in the military structures of Ukraine  is introduced the institution of military clergy (chaplains) and is made a selection of people from among the clergy, offered by religious organizations, to provide a pastoral military custody, particularly in the area of anti-terrorist operation in the east of Ukraine);

- On amendments to the Law of Ukraine "On Protection of Public Morality" (to strengthen public control): III quarter 2015 - 2016.

In addition, in the sphere of development of information society and media, the adoption of the draft law "On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine concerning the removal of restrictions of expression and Punishment" (with the balance in terms of intolerance, extremism, ethnic, racial or religious hatred) is expected: IV quarter 2015 - 2016.

Some initiatives of the legislation, mentioned in the Plan, have been recently adopted by Parliament.

In particular, in the sphere of education and science reform, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Law of Ukraine "On Amendments to Some Laws of Ukraine on the establishment of religious organizations, educational institutions" (№ 498-VIII on June 2, 2015).

 The law granted for religious organizations, whose statutes are registered in accordance with law, the right to establish educational institutions (pre-school, secondary schools, and after-school, vocational and higher). The Law provides the constitutional right of believers (parents or persons substituting them) for the education of children in conformity with their own religious beliefs.

Parliamentarians also adopted the Law of Ukraine "On amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine according regulation of the activity of the clergy (chaplains) in bodies and institutions belonging to the jurisdiction of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine" (№ 419-VIII on May 2, 2015), which expanded the capacity to meet the religious needs of prisoners and detainees and their access to pastoral care from the priests.

According to the Law of Ukraine "On amendments to Article 266 of the Tax Code of Ukraine regarding property tax exemption of religious organizations" (№ 420- VIII on May 14, 2015), subparagraph 266.2.2 266.2 of Article 266 of the Tax Code of Ukraine was supplemented with subparagraph according to which the following items are not subject of taxation:

the real estate, owned by religious organizations, whose statutes (regulations) are registered in accordance with the law and used only for their statutory activities, including those which operate based on such religious organizations, charitable institutions (orphanages, boarding schools, hospitals, etc.), in addition to the real estate, in which the production and / or business activities are performed.

Therefore, Ukraine established and constantly improves the legal framework, necessary for the full implementation of freedom of conscience and religion, the activities of religious organizations.

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