Ukraine's President Signs Controversial Religious Law
Despite urgings from religious groups, human rights advocates and public figures not to sign it, late last month Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych signed into law Bill 10221, which contained significant changes to the Law of Ukraine on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.
According to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU), the changes to the law complicate the procedure for foreign missionaries to gain visas required for entrance into Ukraine.
Bill 10211 also gives authorities Soviet era-like control over the laws on freedom of worship and confession.
The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO) stated in their letter to the president, “We view the development by the Ministry of Justice and adoption by the Supreme Council of Bill 10221 as steps to destabilize the religious situation in the society, lower the level of freedom of religion in Ukraine, putting significant obstacles in the way of spiritual and social ministries of the churches and religious organizations.”
Public backlash led President Yanukovych to implement a team to work on improving the bill. That team first met Dec. 13 and includes members of AUCCRO as well as government officials.
While AUCCRO members aim to remove the existing wording altogether and start over, they also expressed a desire to improve church and state cooperation.
The earliest a modified bill would head back to the Parliament for consideration is in its next session in February.