Application is submitted to the Constitutional Court in case regarding the refusal to list the Latvian Orthodox Autonomous Church in the register of religious organizations
10 July, 2017
On July 6, the Department of Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court suspended proceedings in the case of the religious organization "Latvian Orthodox Autonomous Church" regarding refusal to register the applicant in the register of religious organizations and their institutions. The Supreme Court decided to submit an application to the Constitutional Court regarding the compliance of provisions of Section 7, Paragraph two, and Section 8, Paragraph four of the Law on Religious Organizations, in so far as they limit the right of the ten congregations to establish a church, providing for them a ten-year re-registration period, with Sections 99 and 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia, and compliance of Section 7, Paragraph three of the Law on Religious Organizations, which provide that the congregations of one denomination can establish only one religious union (church) in the state, with Sections 91, 99 and 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia. The proceedings in the case have been suspended until the day the ruling of the Constitutional Court comes into force.
In the decision to submit an application to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court indicates that the restriction, which prohibits the ten congregations from the right to establish a church, providing for a ten-year re-registration period, disproportionately restricts their right to freedom of religion and freedom of association. In addition, the Supreme Court found that, since the Latvian Orthodox Church is already registered, this fact also currently precludes the registration of the applicant. Namely, the law permits the establishment only of one church within single denomination, but this restriction is also disproportionate and unjustifiably provides for different treatment of different religious organizations within a single denomination.
The case reached the Supreme Court with the cassation appeal of the religious organization "Latvian Orthodox Autonomous Church" regarding the judgment of the Regional Administrative Court, which rejected the application for the imposition of obligation on Register of Enterprises to register the applicant in the register of religious organizations and institutions.
The Applicant, the religious organization "Latvian Orthodox Autonomous Church", believes that the organization is not a new religious organization. It was registered in the Republic of Latvia already before 1940, since 1936 the Autonomous Orthodox Church was in a canonical relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is one of the nine patriarchates of the Orthodox Church. The descendants of historical Latvian Orthodox Church launched the renewal of its legal status scheduled for 1940, but the renewal was refused. In applicant’s opinion, the State erroneously recognized Latvian Orthodox Church linked to the Moscow Patriarchate. The applicant requests the Court to take into account that on 13 November 1996 the congregations 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 every year for ten years at least ten congregations shall be registered before the church is allowed to be registered.
Information prepared by Baiba Kataja, the Press Secretary of the Supreme Court
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