Press Releases
Search in Press Releases:
printer friendly document

The President of the Republic refused to proclaim the Churches and Congregations Act

The President of the Republic did not proclaim the ''Churches and Congregations Act'', passed in the Riigikogu on June 13, as the law contains disproportionate restrictions to exercising of freedom of religion through religious unions.

Yesterday, the Estonian Council of Churches submitted their position to the President of the Republic. According to the Council, the law in its current wording may prevent the entry into register of churches and congregations that have traditionally been active in Estonia. The Estonian Union of Seventh Day Adventists was pointed out as an example.

Before making his decision, the President of the Republic consulted the Legal Chancellor Allar Jõks.

The Office of the President of the Republic consulted Master of Law M. Kiviorg, who is an expert on freedom of religion and a lecturer of international law at Tartu University.

In his resolution, the President of the Republic pointed out the following:

The purpose of the passed law is to provide the procedures for joining churches, congregations, unions of congregations, convents and religious societies and the regulation of their activities for exercising freedom of religion guaranteed to everybody by the Constitution (Section 1). Sections 2 and 4 of the Act provide that all religious unions are to be entered into the register of non-profit organisations and foundations.

Subsection 3 of Section 14 of the passed law constitutes an intrusion to the sphere of autonomy of religious unions. Subsection 3 of Section 14 establishes that ''The registrar shall not enter to the registry a church or a union of congregations whose permanent or temporary administrative or economic management is performed or whose decisions are approved by a leader or a higher institution of that church or union of congregations, which is situated outside Estonia.'' The autonomy of religious unions belongs to the category of collective freedom of religion, which is mainly protected by Sections 40 and 48, Subsection 1 of Section 19, and Subsection 2 of Section 9 of the Constitution.

The restriction of the autonomy of religious unions, like the restriction of all basic rights and freedoms shall according to Section 11 of the Constitution be in accordance with the Constitution, be necessary in a democratic society and not distort the nature of the rights and freedoms restricted. According to the position of the Council of Churches, the respective provision of the Churches and Congregations Act affects several religious unions that have tradition of activity in Estonia, and may also prevent their legal entry into register. Nor was the respective restricition included in the ''Churches and Congregations Act'' (Riigi Teataja I 1993, 30, 510), which was passed in 1993. No reasons for including the restriction provided in Subsection 3 of Section 14 in the new law are apparent.

Press Service of the Office of the President
Kadriorg, June 29, 2001


back | archive of press releases | main page

© 2001 Office of the President of the Republic
Phone: +372 631 6202 | Fax: +372 631 6250 |
Offizielle Nachrichten Ametlikud teated Press releases Visits abroad