A detrimental law

Reopening the question of religious freedom

On October 27 2010 the Office for Religious Communities of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia presented a preliminary document for a draft Law on religious and philosophic communities. The new law is expected to replace the current Law on religious freedom enforced in 2007, which enjoys large consensus by the major Churches and religious communities in Slovenia, as confirmed, except for two minor articles, also by the Constitutional Court on April 15 this year. The intention of the government Office arose the perplexities of the Council of Christian Churches (of which the Catholic Church, the Serbian-Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church are members) jointly expressed their opposition to a change to the current legislation, which most of them considers moderate and well-balanced, with a joint declaration of November 9 2010 signed also by the Muslim community.The government Office proposal is an attempt to redefine Church-State relations or religious communities, based on the laicist concept of a sharp division between State and religion, thus downsizing the role of religion across society, along with its progressive elimination from social life. These are well-known practices of Communist regimes. In counter-trend with the European initiatives for the promotion of religious freedom, the promoters of the new law don’t distinguish between Churches and religious communities, but only between philosophic and religious communities. The status of the Churches and of the religious communities would thus be equaled to any other association or company on which the State exerts greater control. In this way is lost not only the autonomy that is guaranteed to religious bodies, since it also paves the way to the possibility of anti-constitutional interference of the State in religious affairs. Transferring some of the responsibilities of the government Department to other public bodies would further complicate things while reducing the level of dialogue and regulations in the relations between the State and religious bodies. Indeed, ongoing mutual relations are accounted for in the Constitution and in the Lisbon Treaty, according to which the European Union acknowledges the identity and specific contribution of Churches and religious communities, whose relations are marked by “ongoing, open and transparent” mutual dialogue (Art. 17).The stand of the Department for religious communities opposes constitutional law principles and counters the European concept of religious freedom, according to which the Churches and the religious communities represent a positive part of civil society. A new law wouldn’t only be useless; it would also lead to the political manipulation of religion. The faithful of the different religions expect the State to grant them a permanent legal and juridical status, which is not provided for in the amendment to the current law providing for the exercise of major human rights, such as religious freedom in its four dimensions: individual and collective, private and public.

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