8 February, the Department of Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court in oral proceedings heard the case on cassation appeal of the religious organization “Latvian Orthodox Autonomous Church” against the judgment of the Regional Administrative Court which dismissed the application for imposition of obligation for the Register of Enterprises to enter the applicant into register of religious organizations and institutions. The Supreme Court heard the parties to proceedings and stated that a ruling on the case will be available on 10 March.
The representative of the applicant, a religious organization “Latvian Orthodox Autonomous Church”, stated at the hearing, that the organization is not a new religious organization. It was registered in the Republic of Latvia before 1940; from 1936 it as an autonomous Orthodox Church has been having canonical relations to the Global Ecumenical Patriarchate. Global Ecumenical Patriarchate is one of nine patriarchates of the Orthodox Church. The representative pointed out that the descendants of historical Latvian Orthodox Church launched the renewal of its legal status scheduled for 1940, but the renewal was refused. State erroneously recognized Latvian Orthodox Church, which is linked to the Moscow Patriarchate. The applicant requests the Court to take into account that on 13 November 1996 the parishes of the Latvian Orthodox Autonomous Church had submitted documents for restoration of spiritually canonical condition before the 1940. In applicant's view, the Latvian Orthodox Autonomous Church cannot be subject to requirements applied to new churches, namely, to the requirement that at least ten congregations shall be registered every decade before being allowed to register the church.
During the hearing the representative of the Register of Enterprises pleaded to dismiss the applicant’s appeal. Representative pointed out that the Register of Enterprises evaluates the formal requirements for registration of certain religious organizations, but does not evaluate their historical succession. At the hearing also the representative of the Ministry of Justice pointed out that currently there is no basis to uphold the application, because the law provides that one church can be registered for one denomination, and this issue is likely to be resolved in the Constitutional Court by establishing whether there are any shortcomings in law. By contrast, the question of succession should be addressed to court of general jurisdiction.
Information prepared by Baiba Kataja, the Press Secretary of the Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia
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