New procedure for registration of religious organizations was introduced in Ukraine

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The law introducing the “united window” for the registration of religious organizations has come into force. It changes the requirements for the transition to another denomination and obliges to re-register all religious organizations of Ukraine.

This is stipulated by the Law of Ukraine #2673-VIII adopted January 17, 2019 “On Amendments to Some Laws of Ukraine Concerning the Subordination of Religious Organizations and the Procedure of State Registration of Such Organizations with the Status of Legal Entities” (draft law #4128-d), which came into force on January 31, as the Institute of the Religious Freedom reports.

The Law makes some additions to the Articles 8, 14, 18 of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations” and to the Articles 1, 3, 9, 16, 17, and 29 of the Law of Ukraine “On State Registration of Legal Entities, Individuals-Entrepreneurs and Public Associations”.

The main innovations of the Law on the new procedure for registration of religious organizations:

1. A "united window" is created for submitting the documents for registration by the religious organizations

This will solve the long-standing problem of “double” registration of religious organizations which initially had to register the statutes in the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, regional state administrations or Kyiv City State Administration, and then they had to contact a state registrar. Now religious affairs bodies will carry out state registration and make relevant information to the Unified State Register of Legal Entities simultaneously with the registration of the statute.

However, this service will not work until the required by-laws are accepted, and new software for state registrars is developed, and new forms of registration applications are approved. As since now the additional data on the "type of religious organization" and its "religious affiliation" will be added to the State Register.

2. Local state registrars have lost the authority to register any religious organizations

Among them, the executive bodies of local councils, notaries, and centers for the provision of administrative services also cannot carry out the state registration of any religious organizations now. In particular, to submit the data to the state register on the change of the head of a religious organization. Thus, before the actual launch of the “united window”, the re-registration of any religious organization will not be possible in practice.

3. The united procedure for changing the subordination of the religious center is established

According to the new Law, the decision on the change of subordination is accepted by the general meeting of believers with not less than 2/3 of a quorum in accordance with a statute of the religious community. This decision has also to be certified by the signatures of the members of the religious community that supported the decision, and then to be submitted for registration together with the application signed by the head or authorized representative of the religious community.

4. To re-register a religious community of any denomination, it is required to submit a list of believers who participated in the general meeting

Such a new requirement of the Law contradicts the Article 4 of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”, which states: “The attitude of a citizen to religion is not indicated in official documents.” It is important to note that the official document is not only a passport, but also a protocol of the general meeting of the religious community.

In addition, according to the Part 2 of the Article 11 of the Law of Ukraine “On Information”, the information about a person's religious beliefs belongs to “confidential information about an individual”, which is prohibited to be transferred to third parties without a written consent, in accordance with the Part 6 of the Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine “On Protection of Personal Data”.

5. The statutes of religious organizations should be brought into compliance with this Law within one year – till January 31, 2020

However, this requirement does not contain sanctions that would oblige all religious organizations to re-register immediately. The law only contains the norm which says that “while bringing the statutes into compliance with this Law, religious organizations shall be guided by the principles of the current statutes in a part that does not contradict this Law.”

As it was reported by the IRF, at the meeting on January 17, the Parliament decided to adopt a new version of the draft law #4128-d immediately as a law – without a second reading, and thus introduced a new procedure for the registration of religious organizations without any consultation with them. The Institute for Religious Freedom presented 16 significant remarks to the adopted law the day before.

Prior to this, in December 2018, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted a law (the draft law #5309) requiring the name change of the religious organizations that are part of the structure of a religious association, the leading center of which is in Russia as an aggressor state.

Institute for Religious Freedom

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