AUCCRO adopts a statement that declares inadmissibility of intervention in liturgical practices of religious organisations

On June 26, 2018, a regular session of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations (AUCCRO) was held at the Central Office of the Ukrainian Bible Society in Kyiv.
The statement  “On the inadmissibility of the violation of  the principle of autonomy of religious organisations and interference in the liturgical practices of religious organisations” was discussed and adopted at the AUCCRO session.
The reason for the adoption of this statement was the infamous case in Zaporizhzhya, which occurred on January 11, 2018, when the Prosecutor’s Office of the Zaporizhzhya region, referring to Part 3 of Art. 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (violation of the equal rights of citizens depending on their race, nationality, religious beliefs, disability and other differences) instigated criminal proceedings against the clergyman and certain other representatives of the Zaporizhzhya eparchy  of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the grounds that they “followed  a selective approach when performing religious rites, giving preference to those who were baptised  into the UOC-MP, thus insulting  the feelings of citizens in connection with their religious convictions”.
In this regard, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations believes that the application of the above-mentioned Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine to clerics and religious organisations in the event of refusal or not satisfying the religious needs (sacraments, ceremonies, etc.) of persons belonging to other denominations, religions, and other religious organisations is unacceptable because it violates the rights and freedoms of religious organisations which is guaranteed by the Law of Ukraine: “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations”. In particular, Art. 5 of this Law postulates the following: “The state protects the rights and lawful interests of religious organisations …, takes into account and respects the traditions and internal guidelines  of religious organisations, as long as they do not contradict current legislation. The state does not interfere with the activities of religious organisations provided  they are carried out within the limits of the law “.
“On the basis of this, – says the AUCCRO statement, –  the question  of whether or not religious leaders, clergymen, ministers and   preachers  celebrate given religious rites and/or ceremonies,  is governed by the internal guidelines of the respective religion, confession and religious organisation and can not be  subject to the application of Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine “.

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