There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom.
Some minority religious groups reported that local authorities did not grant construction permits for places of worship, although they had no legal grounds for refusing. The Greek Catholic Church stated that local authorities continued to refuse a construction permit, first requested in 2003, for a new church in Sapinta in Maramures County. The Greek Catholics attributed the delay to pressure from the Orthodox Church.
In September the Secular Humanist Association (ASUR) urged the Education Ministry to immediately withdraw from schools all religion textbooks that promote intolerance and to take all necessary steps to prevent religious indoctrination. The association expressed concern about the persistent inclusion of such themes as sin, hell, and the devil in religious textbooks for primary schools. ASUR also criticized automatic enrollment in religion classes, and began a campaign to inform parents and schools that parents had the right to withdraw children from religion classes.
In reaction, the Ministry of Education stated it would work with the Orthodox Church to replace religion textbooks promoting intolerance for the school year 2013-2014. In October, 26 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) sent a separate letter to the education minister expressing concern about the content of religion textbooks. The NGOs criticized the ministry’s declared intention of cooperating only with the Orthodox Church in changing religion curricula and textbooks, and asked for a public debate on these issues.
Representatives of the Bahai Faith stated that an 11th grade Orthodox religion textbook containing defamatory content continued to be used nationwide. The book described the emergence of the Greek Catholic Church in the 18th century as the result of “Catholic proselytizing” and calls Jehovah’s Witnesses, Bahais, and Mormons “sects” that “represent a genuine threat to society.”
Unrecognized groups such as the Bahai Faith criticized the minimum membership requirement for registration as discriminatory. Bahai representatives stated that the number of adherents of some recognized religions is much lower than the 0.1 percent of the population the law requires.
In many cases, minority religious groups were unable to gain restitution of confiscated properties in accordance with the law. Courts delayed hearings on many restitution lawsuits filed by the Greek Catholic Church, and the lawsuits were often impeded by appeals or change of venue requests from the Orthodox Church. Courts also ruled in some cases in favor of the Orthodox Church on the grounds that it had more members than the Greek Catholic Church. For example, on March 28 the Cluj Court of Appeal overturned the ruling of a Baia Mare court to restitute the former Greek Catholic Cathedral in Baia Mare.
Representatives of the Greek Catholic Church asserted that the government did not respond adequately to complaints regarding restitution of properties or discrimination by local officials. In April the Greek Catholic Bishop of Oradea wrote letters to the prime minister and the Orthodox Patriarch complaining about local authorities’ failure to enforce a final and irrevocable court ruling restituting a former Greek Catholic church in Vasad. Because of interference by local Orthodox clergy, Greek Catholic worshippers were unable to enter the church.
On September 25, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the government to pay compensatory damages and trial expenses totaling 25,000 euros ($33,008) to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Alba Iulia for refusing for 14 years to enforce a government emergency order restituting a building including the Batthyaneum library and an astronomical institute.
A fund established by the government in 2005 to compensate claimants with shares of stock for properties that could not be returned in kind subsequently disbursed all of its shares, and was no longer a viable source of restitution.
Claimants complained that some local authorities opposed restitution or consistently delayed providing information about claimed properties to the Special Restitution Commission (SRC), thereby obstructing the restitution process despite laws stipulating fines for such delays. Since 2003 the SRC received 14,814 applications for property restitution from recognized religious groups and restituted 1,554 properties. However, the SRC returned only 135 of the 6,723 properties claimed by the Greek Catholic church, and in some cases local authorities delayed enforcement or did not take any steps to enforce decisions. Local authorities failed to enforce a 2010 final court ruling providing restitution of a Greek Catholic church in Casva despite the church’s appeal to the president, prime minister, interior minister, and the Mures County prefect.
In Pesceana, a Greek Catholic community established in 2005 reported ongoing discrimination and harassment. Community members stated that authorities and local Orthodox priests continued to deny them access to the local public cemetery despite a 2009 appellate court ruling that a Greek Catholic priest could conduct religious services in the cemetery for deceased Greek Catholics.
Falun Dafa Romania alleged that the Chinese embassy pressured the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to instruct the Ministry of Culture to reject any Falun Dafa applications.
Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church stated that some public educational institutions, for example Ovidius University in Constanta, refused to make accommodations for examinations of students who observed the Sabbath on Friday evenings.
According to several religious groups, military chaplains were exclusively Orthodox priests with the exception of one Roman Catholic priest and one clergy member from the Evangelical Alliance.
Some religious groups stated that authorities generally allowed only the Orthodox Church an active role in annual opening ceremonies at schools and other community events. Greek Catholic priests from Transylvania stated they were never invited to official local events.
Non-Orthodox religious groups faced difficulty in accessing cemeteries and in obtaining land to establish cemeteries. In Bucharest the local Islamic community did not receive land promised by the government for the establishment of an Islamic cemetery and construction of a mosque.
Mormons reported discrimination through arbitrary and uneven application of laws, ordinances, and regulations. Mormons also reported that police protection was inadequate, citing a case in which attackers reportedly held two missionaries at gun point in Bucharest but police refused to charge the attackers with any crime. In another case in Deva, a Romanian Mormon missionary called the police to report a violent disturbance in the residence next door. When police arrived, instead of investigating the reported violence, they demanded residence registration papers for the Romanian citizen missionary.
Most mainstream politicians continued to publicly denounce anti-Semitism and attempts to deny the Holocaust. However, there were cases of anti-Semitic or Holocaust-denying statements.
In January a director in the prefect’s office of Mures County posted the message from the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp, “Arbeit macht frei” (work makes you free), on his Facebook page. The National Council to Combat Discrimination (CNCD) investigated and on February 22 determined that the action violated anti-discrimination laws and fined the director 1,000 lei ($300).
On April 17, the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania expressed indignation over the Suceava County Council sponsorship of a book written by a former member of the pre-World War II fascist Legionnaire Movement. The book carried on its cover the picture of former Legionnaire leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu.
In May the Wiesel Institute asked the prosecutor general’s office to consider banning the “All for the Country” party. The institute accused the party of having a neo-fascist doctrine and using fascist, xenophobic, and racist symbols from the Legionnaire Movement. In September the Bucharest prosecutor’s office sought to ban the party and initiated legal action. A court decision was pending at year’s end.
On March 5, Social Democratic Party (PSD) spokesperson Senator Dan Sova stated on a television program that “no Jew suffered on Romanian territory thanks to Marshal Antonescu” (the pro-Nazi leader during World War II). He further said that “historical data indicates that a total of 24 Jews were killed during the Iasi pogrom by the German army.” The Romanian and international Jewish community, the NGO Center for Monitoring Anti-Semitism in Romania (MCA Romania), the Wiesel Institute, and the Roma Center for Social Intervention and Studies (Romani CRISS) condemned Sova’s statements. MCA Romania and Romani CRISS filed a criminal complaint against Sova, arguing that his statements violated the law forbidding Holocaust denial. Sova was temporarily dismissed from the position of PSD spokesperson and went to Washington to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Upon his return, Sova declared publicly that his statements had come from ignorance, withdrew them, and apologized. He stated that after studying hundreds of pages of documents in Washington he now understood that “Jews had a dramatic fate” in Romania. Sova was later appointed to the position of Minister Delegate for Liaison with Parliament on August 6, triggering a new wave of domestic and international criticism. Sova again apologized publicly for his original statements, and said that he was aware of historical information confirming the Holocaust in Romania. He subsequently promoted stronger legislation against racism and anti-Semitism and supported projects to broaden Holocaust education in schools and universities.
On October 18, member of the European Parliament (MEP) and leader of the Greater Romania Party Corneliu Vadim Tudor stated during a television program he “would deny the Holocaust (in Romania) until death, because I love my people.” MCA Romania and the Elie Wiesel Institute urged authorities to enforce existing legislation against anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Publications of the Greater Romania Party continued to carry anti-Semitic statements and articles.
In April the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania raised objections with the prosecutor general’s office concerning a memorial to former Legionnaire leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu on National Highway 1 outside of Bucharest. On July 11, the prosecutor’s office in Buftea decided the memorial was not a statement of propaganda and did not violate the emergency ordinance that bans celebrating or commemorating individuals who committed criminal acts against society and humanity.
The government continued to implement the recommendations of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania (Wiesel Commission) Report and to promote Holocaust education in school curricula.
The government made progress in efforts to teach the history of the Holocaust, which was included in history courses in the seventh, ninth, 11th, and 12th grades. During the 2012-2013 school year, 106 high schools offered the optional course “History of the Jews--The Holocaust.” The government continued to provide Holocaust education training to history teachers in specialized training centers in Bacau, Arad, Brasov, Craiova, and Galati. In August, 15 history teachers participated in a training course at Yad Vashem. The Ministry of Education provided written materials and maintained a web site with a guide for teaching about the Holocaust designed to assist teachers nationwide. The ministry also sponsored national and international seminars on teaching Holocaust history and provided additional educational resources to help combat anti-Semitism. The Eli Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania was also very active in educating the general public regarding the Holocaust.
In November the Baptist Church reported to authorities that MEP Gigi Becali stated on a talk show that Baptists and “Neo-Protestants” (defined as including Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventist, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others) in general are “Satanic cults” and not Christians. The Baptist Church also criticized the television station and urged it to take the necessary steps to avoid such misrepresentations and slanderous statements in the future.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses reported no problems for the first time in their history in Romania.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church noted increased official openness and tolerance towards minority religious groups. Church representatives stated authorities were more responsive to religious freedom and discrimination issues.