Orthodox America

  A New Law on Freedom of Conscience

The new Soviet law regulating the activity of religious organizations in the USSR came into force on Tuesday 9 October, reports Keston College. It does away with many of the old repressive measures which made so many religious activities illegal. Evangelism, teaching religion to children, Sunday schools, and religious study groups will no longer be against the law. The government is no longer permitted to fund or support atheism, and all educational establishments are obliged to acknowledge freedom of conscience.

      Religious citizens and organizations are guaranteed equality in all areas of public life, including access to the media. Clergy are specifically permitted to take part in the political life of the country, though religious organizations may not support political parties or take part in their activity. Students training in theological institutions are permitted to defer military service, making them equal with students in secular education, and soldiers are permitted to attend religious services in their free time.

      The Council for Religious Affairs is to become a purely advisory body, an "informational, consultative and expert center," though it may still liaise between religious organization and state institutions at the request of religious organizations.

(Excerpts from a report by Michael Rowe, KNS 10/25/90, and ARC Newsletter, Winter 1990) 

NOTE: In view of shifting political winds in the Soviet Union, one wonders just how successfully this new law will be implemented. – Ed.