Status of the bill on the General Status of Religious Cults [ROM34637.E]

A 17 February 1999 Keston News Service (KNS) report states that:

The Romanian government has formally withdrawn the controversial bill called the General Status of Religious Cults, although the decision has not yet been published officially. Reports have been circulating that such withdrawal was imminent.
"Today, February 10, the government voted unanimously to withdraw the draft law on religious denominations," Gabriel Andreescu, chair of the Centre for Human Rights within the Romanian Helsinki Committee, told Keston News Service from Bucharest. "This is a clear, formal, recognised decision. And a very significant one."
Andreescu told Keston on February 17, "Yesterday, the Standing Commission of the Chamber of Deputies received the demand of the Romanian government regarding the withdrawal of the draft law on religious denominations."
Many religious groups had opposed the draft and the restrictions on minority communities that would have followed its adoption and seem set to welcome its withdrawal. "If adopted, the draft would have been very detrimental," the President of the Adventist Church in Romania, Adrian Bocaneanu, told Keston. His church had been among those urging the withdrawal of the draft.

The withdrawal of the draft legislation is corroborated in the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights Human Rights in the OSCE Region: the Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2000. The report described the bill as "a dangerous step towards the creation of a Romanian Orthodox state, and away from the secular state." The report also stated that:

The bill contained significant measures to limit and control religious activity in Romania and to turn the Romanian Orthodox Church into an Institution that enjoys a special relationship with the state authorities. The new bill drew heavily on the model of Decree 177/1948, used to regulate organization and functions of religious denominations under the communist regime.

The report states that the IHF-affiliated Romanian Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) criticized many provisions of the draft bill in favour of the Romanian Orthodox Church, such as:

article 7 contained a new provision that "The state shall support the activity of religious denominations, in accordance with the principle of proportionality." The association [APADOR-CH] noted this could be used to severely restrict the access of minority religions in the media, to facilities and media support. Article 15 and 23 restricted the ability of religious communities to achieve legal recognition as denominations according to their membership. Those not having a membership of at least "0,5 percent of the country's population, according to the latest census", for example, would be denied legal status. APADOR-CH noted this would exclude effectively all those communities with less than 115,000 members, and that it represented a direct violation of the principle of equality among denominations...

The report stated that the provisions of the draft bill regarding the regulation of religious communities that did not qualify for legal status as denominations were the "most serious proposed restrictions on freedom of religion in Romania."

According to article 6 (2), religious associations would only be registered where communities had at least 300 members, at least two-thirds of whom had to be Romanian, and "upon the previous agreement of the State Secretariat for Denominations." Religious communities were bound by law to seek registration and those which undertook religious activities without legal status risked large fines of between 50 million lei (U.S.$ 2,500-7,500) under the draft bill's article 67. APADOR-CH feared that given the track record of the State Secretariat for Denominations in acting to limit religious activity and mirroring Romanian Orthodox policies, these provisions would have had a serious chilling effect on freedom of religion in Romania.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 1 June 2000. Human Rights in the OSCE Region: the Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2000. [Accessed 7 June 2000]

Keston News Service (KNS). 17 February 2000. "Romanian Government Withdraws Controversial Religion Bill." [Accessed 7 June 2000]