A case initiated with regard to the norms of the Law on Religious Organisations setting out requirements for establishing a religious association (church)
On 19 July 2017, the 1st Panel of the Constitutional Court initiated a case “On compliance of Section 7(2) and Section 8(4) of the Law on Religious Organisations with Articles 99 and 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia and on compliance of Section 7(3) of the Law on Religious Organisations with Articles 91, 99 and 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia”.
Section 7(2) of the Law on Religious Organisations: “Ten (or more) congregations of one denomination which are registered in the Republic of Latvia may establish a religious association (church). This provision shall not apply to the religious organisations referred to in Section 8, Paragraph four of this Law.”
Section 7(3) of the Law on Religious Organisations: “Congregations of one denomination may establish only one religious association (church) in the State.”
Section 8(4) of the Law on Religious Organisations: “Congregations which commence activities for the first time in the Republic of Latvia and do not belong to any religious associations (churches) already registered in the State, shall re-register in the registration institution (hereinafter – re-registration) each year for a period of the first ten years. When re-registering a religious organisation, the registration institution shall repose on the opinion provided by the Ministry of Justice regarding the conformity of the activities of the religious organisation in the previous period with the requirements of regulatory enactments.”
Norms of Higher Legal Force
Article 91 of the Constitution: “All human beings in Latvia shall be equal before the law and the courts. Human rights shall be realised without discrimination of any kind.”
Article 99 of the Constitution: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The church shall be separate from the State.”
Article 102 of the Constitution: “Everyone has the right to form and join associations, political parties and other public organisations.”
The case has been initiated based on the application by the Department of Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court (hereinafter – the court). The court is examining, under cassation procedure, a case regarding the Administrative District Court’s decision to dismiss the application of the religious organisation Latvian Autonomous Orthodox Church [“Latvijas Pareizticīgā Autonomā Baznīca”] (hereinafter – the religious organisation) for being entered into the Register of Religious Organisations and the Institutions Thereof and thus to deny this organisation the status of a legal entity and to prohibit its congregations from establishing a religious association (church).
In the court’s view, the contested norms, insofar as they restrict the right of ten (or more) congregations to establish a church by prescribing a ten-year re-registration period and stipulate that only one church may be established within a denomination, unreasonably restrict the religious organisation’s right to freedom of religion and association, which is guaranteed by the Constitution. Furthermore, the court holds that the provision restricting the number of churches that can be established within a denomination to only one contradicts the principle of equality. The contested norms place different religious groups of one denomination in unequal situations, as they allow only one of such groups to establish a religious association (church) – the one that does it first.
The Constitutional Court has requested the Saeima to submit by 19 September 2017 to the Constitutional Court a written reply, presenting the facts of the case and legal substantiation.
The term for preparing the case is 19 December 2017. The Court shall decide on the type of procedure and the date for hearing the case after the case has been prepared.
Open in PDF: 2017-18-01_PR_par_ierosinasanu_ENG
Linked case: 2017-18-01