Restrictive religion law fails muster in Kazakhstan

By February 13, 2009

Kazakhstan (MNN) — Kazakhstan's
Constitutional Council has been deliberating on the country's controversial
religion law. 

Joel
Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association says they just got the verdict: "It is, indeed,
unconstitutional." 

Among other provisions, the bill
calls for explicitly banning unregistered religious activity and would ban
anyone from sharing his or her beliefs without both the written backing of a
registered religious association, as well as personal state registration as a
missionary. In addition, it would require permission from both parents for
children to attend any religious event.

There is some speculation that
international pressure played a role in the Council's decision. Kazakhstan is due to assume the chairmanship
of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010. Such a restrictive religion law flies in the
face of what the OSCE stands for. 

However, "The President has
to review the opinion of the court, and he'll decide whether to agree or
disagree with it within ten days. After the President renders his response, he
could propose changes to the decision, but then two-thirds of the
Constitutional Council has to support those revisions."

That's not all. According to a report from Forum 18 News
Service, Yevgeni Zhovtis, head of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human
Rights and Rule of Law, says that the Constitutional Council's judgment also
implies that the current Religion Law is unconstitutional.

This is good news for
Christians. Facing particular
harassment are members of the Council of Churches Baptists, who refuse on
principle to register any of their congregations with the state. However, "Anyone
charged with breaking the current Religion Law's limitations on religious
freedom can cite the Constitutional Council's decision in court," Zhovtis
said. "The court can then be asked to refer the current Religion Law to
the Constitutional Council, for them to directly rule on the current Religion
Law's constitutionality."

Your prayers have helped, but "it's not over yet," says Griffith. However, "it's a positive sign and one to
definitely keep in prayer that the work of the Gospel in Kazakhstan would not
be hindered."

 

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