The national constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom, but some laws and policies restrict religious freedom.
The law governing the practice of religion bans religious entities from engaging in political activity, describes the procedures for registering religious groups, provides for conscientious objection to military service, and prohibits “abusive proselytism.”
The registration process is the same for all religious groups. A religious group must present to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) a declaration of its exact name, fundamental principles of belief, organizational structure, scope of activities, financing sources, and rights and obligations of membership. The law also requires at least 100 citizen founders to register a religious group. Religious groups must present proof of having premises for their religious activity. The MOJ is required by law to register a religious group within 30 days if the registration request is made according to law. The applicant may request that this term be extended. At the request of the MOJ, a court can suspend the registered status of a religious group if it “carries out activities that harm the constitution or laws” or “affects state security, public order, [or] the life and security of the people.” The law also provides for suspension or revocation of a religious group’s registration in case of violation of international agreements or for political activity.
The law does not require registration, but registration gives religious groups legal status that allows them to own property, open bank accounts, and hire employees. Individual churches or branches of registered religious groups are not required to register with the MOJ as long as they do not carry out legal transactions and do not receive donations as local legal entities. The parent organization must exercise authority in those areas for unregistered local branches. Unregistered groups may not act as legal entities or obtain space in public cemeteries in their own names.
Property disputes between the MOC and BOC were not resolved. Although the law provides for restitution of property confiscated during the successive fascist and Soviet regimes to politically repressed or exiled persons, the provision does not apply to property confiscated from religious groups. Local authorities can arrange with local parishes to return church properties, but in practice, these arrangements usually benefitted the MOC.
The law allows religious groups to establish associations and foundations. The law also permits local religious groups to change their denominational affiliation or dissolve themselves. The law exempts registered religious groups from paying real estate and land taxes.
All religious groups, whether registered or not, have freedom to worship and free access to public places for their activities.
There is no state religion. The law on religion, however, describes the “exceptional importance and fundamental role of the Christian Orthodox religion, particularly that of the MOC, in the life, history, and culture of the people of the Republic of Moldova.” The Metropolitan of Chisinau and all Moldova, the highest-ranking cleric in the MOC, holds a diplomatic passport and is the only religious leader known to be accorded such treatment. The MOC also receives preferential treatment from the authorities for the import of religious materials.
The government nominally allows all religious groups to hold services at state facilities, including orphanages, hospitals, schools, and military and police institutions at the request of individuals in such institutions, provided they obtain the approval of the institution’s administration. In practice, the MOC has greater access to these institutions.
Missionaries may submit work contracts or volunteer agreements to apply for a temporary residency permit, and can reside and work in a paid status or as unpaid volunteers. Only missionaries working with registered religious groups may apply for temporary residency permits. Foreign missionaries may remain for 90 days on a tourist visa. Foreign religious workers must register with the National Agency for the Occupation of the Workforce, the Bureau for Migration and Asylum, and the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications.
According to the law on education, “moral and spiritual instruction” is mandatory for primary school students and optional for secondary school and university students. The instruction covers a wide range of topics and issues, including moral, spiritual, artistic, aesthetic, and ethical standards, with the aim of providing students with a broad understanding of human values. Topics covered include truth, goodness, peace, patriotism, faith, wisdom, tolerance, justice, team spirit, and trust in virtues. There is no opt-out option available. An optional course on religion is available in addition to the mandatory moral and spiritual instruction. It is taught from manuals developed by the Ministry of Education with input from the MOC and includes teaching guidelines developed with the support of the BOC. Teachers and Orthodox priests teach this optional course, which focuses on the Orthodox Christian faith.
An equality law prohibits discrimination on several bases, including religious affiliation.
On January 22, the Constitutional Court ruled on the constitutionality of the mandatory immunization of children challenged, in part, on religious grounds by the Moldovan government’s Parliamentary Ombudsman for Human Rights. The Court declared the law constitutional and the mandatory immunization of children remained in force.
In separatist Transnistria, Transnistrian law affirms the role of the Orthodox Church in the region’s history. All religious groups, whether registered or not, officially have freedom to worship. Foreign citizens also have the freedom to worship. Transnistrian law, however, imposes restrictions on the right to freedom of conscience and religion, “if necessary to protect the constitutional order, morality, health, citizens’ rights and interests, or state defense and security.” The prosecutor’s office oversees implementation of the law on religious freedom.
The law provides for legal registration of religious groups. The region’s “Ministry of Justice” registers religious groups and monitors their adherence to the goals and activities set forth in their statutes. Registration provides a number of advantages to religious groups, including the ability to own and build places of worship, open religious schools, and publish literature.
To obtain legal registration in Transnistria, a local religious group must present proof of activity in Transnistria for at least 10 years and must have at least 20 members aged 18 years old and above with permanent residence in the region and Transnistrian “citizenship.” A local religious group may also register as part of a centralized religious organization, which must consist of at least six local religious groups. The religious group must inform the registration authority on a yearly basis about intentions to extend its activities.
A religious group also must provide the Transnistrian “Ministry of Justice” with a list of founders and their personal details, its statutes, the minutes of its constituent assembly, basic religious doctrine, contact details of its governing body, and an official tax receipt. The decision to register a religious group must be taken within 30 days of the application. If the “ministry” decides to conduct a “religious assessment,” the registration can be postponed for up to six months.
Religious groups can disband upon their own decision or upon a Transnistrian court’s decision. The prosecutor’s office or the region’s executive, city, or district authorities can request disbandment or suspension of a religious group in the courts.
Transnistrian law allows the use of homes and apartments to hold religious services. It does not, however, allow the use of homes and apartments as accommodations or residences for religious groups. The law also allows religious services and rituals in public places such as hospitals, clinics, orphanages, geriatric homes, and prisons.
With some exceptions, religious groups in Transnistria may freely produce, publish, import, and export religious printed materials, audio and video recordings, and other religious items.
In Transnistria foreign religious groups may not undertake religious activities and do not have the status of officially registered religious groups. Foreign citizens cannot be founders or members of religious groups.
In Transnistria the authorities do not allow religious groups to participate in elections or other political party activity or to support nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in elections.
Transnistrian law has no provisions for alternative service for conscientious objection to military duties. According to the Transnistrian criminal code, courts may sentence those who avoid or evade military service to fines from 5,375 to 13,005 Transnistrian rubles ($484 to $1,172) or imprisonment of up to two years.