Government restrictions and harassment affected minority religious groups across a broad spectrum of activities, in particular preventing them from obtaining the restitution of previously confiscated properties. Jewish groups were concerned about memorials honoring the country’s pro-Nazi World War II figures and the activities of current day pro-fascist political parties.
In September the Secular Humanist Association (ASUR) resumed a campaign against “religious indoctrination” it had initiated in previous years to inform parents and schools that parents had the right to withdraw children from religion classes. President of the National Antidiscrimination Council (CNCD) Csaba Asztalos declared that automatic enrollment of students in religion classes infringed upon the right to the freedom of conscience.
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 called Jehovah’s Witnesses, Bahais, and Mormons “sects that represent a genuine threat to society.”
Unrecognized groups, such as the Bahais, continued to criticize as discriminatory the minimum membership requirement for acquiring religion status. Bahai representatives stated that the number of adherents of some recognized religions was much lower than the 0.1 percent of the population required by the law and advocated amending this provision of the religion law so that the required number of members would be equal to that of the recognized religion with the lowest number of members.
In many cases minority religious groups were unable to gain restitution of confiscated properties in accordance with the law. Claimants complained that some local authorities opposed restitution or consistently delayed providing information about claimed properties to the Special Restitution Commission (SRC) of the National Authority for Property Restitution (ANRP), thereby obstructing the restitution process despite laws stipulating fines for such delays. Since 2003 the ANRP received 14,814 applications for property restitution from recognized religious groups and restituted 1,554 of them as of the end of 2012, of which only 135 properties belonged to the Greek Catholic Church. In some cases local authorities delayed enforcement or did not enforce decisions. The ANRP continued the restitution of religious property at a very slow pace, restituting only 12 properties to religious denominations during the year. The Greek Catholic Church and the Jewish community criticized the new restitution law, saying that it will generate further delays in the restitution of religious properties.
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, such as in the case of the churches in Sapanta and Salonta. In Salonta a lawsuit that began in 2006 remained unresolved. In some instances, such as two cases concerning former Greek Catholic churches in Ungheni and Iris, courts ruled in favor of the Orthodox Church on the grounds that it had more members than the Greek Catholic Church. On May 16, the High Court of Cassation and Justice upheld the decision by the Cluj Court of Appeal in 2012 to overturn a Baia Mare court’s ruling to restore the former Greek Catholic Cathedral in Baia Mare to the Greek Catholic Church on the grounds that the number of Orthodox believers represented a majority in the city.
In May State Secretary for Religious Affairs Victor Opaschi addressed the issue of restitution of Greek Catholic churches, stating that present-day Orthodox believers were former Greek Catholics or their descendants, who felt that the former Greek Catholic churches belonged to them. Opaschi also said that in such cases, “Restitution cannot take place automatically based on property rights; local sensitivities and the needs of local communities should also be considered.”
In June the Greek Catholic Church took possession of the church of the Greek Catholic Seminary in Oradea pursuant to a lawsuit that had begun in 2006.
Representatives of the Greek Catholic Church continued to state that the government did not respond adequately to their complaints regarding the restitution of properties and acts of discrimination by local officials. On October 29, the Greek Catholic Church sent a letter to the president, prime minister, and local authorities calling for the enforcement of a 2011 “final and irrevocable” court ruling restoring to the Greek Catholic Church some buildings and land belonging to a monastery in Bixad (Satu Mare County), and criticizing the attitude of the local authorities, who continued to oppose the court ruling. The Greek Catholic Church also complained to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about this case in March. On November 7, a large number of Orthodox priests blocked the road to the monastery and over 100 villagers, reportedly mobilized by the Orthodox Church, came to stop the enforcement of the court’s ruling. On the same day, the Satu Mare county council obtained an injunction provisionally suspending the enforcement of the court ruling, after filing a lawsuit claiming that one of the buildings was its property. On November 13, the Greek Catholic cardinal addressed a letter to the prime minister, urging him publicly to express the government’s position regarding the obstruction to the enforcement of the court ruling. On November 13, a U.S.-based Greek Catholic Association sent a letter to the president of the Satu Mare county council asking for clarification of the council vice president’s statement that the court ruling represented “an abuse” and that only “part of it” would be enforced.
Non-Orthodox religious groups continued to face difficulty in accessing cemeteries and in obtaining land to establish cemeteries. In Pesceana, Greek Catholic community members reported that authorities and local Orthodox priests continued to deny them access to the local public cemetery despite a 2006 court ruling that a Greek Catholic priest could conduct religious services for deceased Greek Catholics in the cemetery. A Greek Catholic complaint of a violation of religious freedom related to this denial of access has been before the ECHR since 2007. The Orthodox Church, seeking to become the owner of the cemetery, initiated a lawsuit in 2012. Similarly, local authorities and the Orthodox Church continued to deny to the Greek Catholic Church access to the cemetery in Sapanta.
Bahai leaders continued to complain that because the Bahai Faith did not have formal religion status, its leadership was not notified by the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs about the secretariat’s consultations with recognized religions regarding proposed amendments to legislation affecting religious affairs. The Bahais called the situation highly discriminatory. Bahai leaders also emphasized the need to amend the provisions of the religion law to allow the burial of unrecognized religious groups.
According to several religious groups, military chaplains were exclusively Orthodox priests with the exception of one Roman Catholic priest and one pastor from the Evangelical Alliance.
The Greek Catholic Church continued to report 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 continued to report they were never invited to official local events.
Orthodox religion teachers reportedly harassed and intimidated Greek Catholic children in Ungheni and Borod, where the Orthodox priest pressured the children not to attend the Greek Catholic Church.
Mormons continued to criticize the existence of a “predominant state-sponsored church,” stating it created problems for minority religious groups. They also stated members of minority religious groups found it difficult to opt out of Orthodox religion classes at public schools because of social pressure, and the influence of the Orthodox Church prevented its members from declaring their conversion for fear of adverse societal reactions. Mormons said their members were unfairly financially burdened because a portion of their taxes supported other religious groups, primarily the Orthodox Church, with no opt-out provision for smaller religious groups. Mormons continued to report discrimination through arbitrary and uneven application of laws, ordinances, and regulations, including provisions of the law that provided different funding for and taxation of religious groups. They complained that police protection was inadequate and in Timisoara and Ploiesti police forbade their missionaries to talk to people in the streets and to invite people to their free English language courses. In September in Timisoara, the police reportedly told the Mormons that they had to pay a fee to hand out information, although it was not a commercial solicitation, and asked them to remove their English class posters.
Mormons also reported continuing difficulties in renting space for their meetings. For example, local authorities and public servants in Feldioara turned down their request, stating that the Orthodox Church was using all the available space. Local authorities also denied Mormon requests to perform community service in Bucharest and Ploiesti.
On June 20, the Bucharest Court rejected a request from the Prosecutor’s Office to the Bucharest Tribunal, made in 2012 on behalf of the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania (Wiesel Institute), to ban the “All for the Country” political party because of its pro-fascist doctrine and its use of symbols originating from the fascist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic Legionnaire Movement of the 1930’s.
The mayor of Bucharest Sector 1 did not respond to a complaint filed by the Wiesel Institute in February to remove the Legionnaire flag from the headquarters of the present-day Legionnaire Movement.
The local council in Targu Ocna granted honorary citizenship to a former legionnaire, Valeriu Gafencu, but withdrew it in June after repeated requests by the Wiesel Institute. The local council in Baia Sprie also granted honorary citizenship to a denier of the Romanian Holocaust.
In violation of existing legislation, the mayor of Tirgoviste continued to refuse to cancel the title of honorary citizen given to Marshal Ion Antonescu, Romania’s pro-Nazi leader during World War II, who was executed as a war criminal responsible for the murder of 280,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews.
In October the general mayor of Bucharest refused to execute a January 23 “final” court ruling to demolish an illegally-constructed office tower next to the Roman Catholic cathedral. According to the ruling, the tower was deemed a risk to the physical integrity of the cathedral. In October the Romanian Catholic Bishops Conference urged the mayor to enforce the ruling and the Council of European Catholic Bishops Conferences expressed concern about the general mayor’s failure to enforce the court ruling.
The Center for Monitoring Anti-Semitism in Romania (MCA Romania) urged the Prosecutor General’s office to investigate public radio station Radio Romania Cultural for having “promoted the image of the Legionnaire Movement and Ion Antonescu as entities that had no connection with anti-Semitism and crimes against Jews,” during a program on August 17. The Wiesel Institute also asked the National Audiovisual Council to take measures against the station. The public radio company expressed regret in a communique and distanced itself from the statements made by the program’s producer.
The director of the county museum in Arges wrote a letter to the Arges County Council in September rejecting a request made at the behest of the Wiesel Institute to remove from the museum hallway a bust of Marshal Antonescu. The museum director argued the law permitted the display of such statues in museums.
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 Ministry of National Education (MEN) provided written materials and maintained a website with a guide for teaching about the Holocaust designed to assist teachers nationwide. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in October signed a five-year agreement with the MEN and the Wiesel Institute regarding Holocaust education and research. National Holocaust Remembrance Day, October 9, was commemorated in schools nationwide.
The government made progress in efforts to teach the history of the Holocaust, which was included in history courses in the seventh, ninth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. During the 2012-2013 school year, 106 high schools offered the optional course, “History of the Jews-The Holocaust.” The MEN sponsored national and international seminars on teaching Holocaust history and provided additional educational resources to help combat anti-Semitism. In May the government, in cooperation with the Yad Vashem Institute and the International School for Holocaust Studies, organized Holocaust education seminars for history teachers in Bucharest, Bacau, and Brasov. In October the MEN, the Wiesel Institute, the Memorial Library and Art Collection of the Second World War Society (New York), and the Association for Eastern Europe Studies agreed to organize a national school competition, “The Memory of Holocaust,” during the 2013-2014 school year.
Several public officials, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Titus Corlatean and Senate President Crin Antonescu, issued statements of condemnation when public television station TVR 3 broadcast on December 6 a performance by folk group Dor Transilvan, which included a so-called carol glorifying violence against Jews. The National Audiovisual Council fined TVR 3 50,000 lei ($15,385).
On February 6, the CNCD ruled on a 2012 complaint filed by the Baptist Church that Member of the European Parliament Gigi Becali stated on a talk show that Baptists and “Neo-Protestants” (defined as including Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others) in general are “Satanic cults” and not Christians. The CNCD decided the statement was discriminatory and fined Becali 8,000 lei ($2,462).
The Seventh-day Adventist Church expressed dissatisfaction that the national television station did not respond to its requests to broadcast a brief program, despite frequent grants of broadcast time to the Orthodox Church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, however, noted increased official openness toward the observance of the religious rights of minority religious groups. Church representatives stated authorities were more responsive to religious freedom and discrimination issues.
In February 23 civic organizations asked parliament to end the public financing of religious denominations on the grounds that Romania was a secular state, without a state religion.