The constitution states freedom of religious worship is guaranteed and that religious groups may organize and operate according to their own statutes, independent from the state. In addition, the constitution stipulates that relations between religious groups must be free of discord, and that the state shall facilitate religious assistance in the army, hospitals, penitentiaries, nursing homes, and orphanages. The constitution provides for equality of all citizens before the law and before public authorities, regardless of religion.
The law implementing the constitutional provisions states that every individual has the right to the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and these rights must be exercised in the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect. The law states that every person has the right to belong or not belong to a religion, to have or not have individual beliefs, to change religion or beliefs, and to practice religion or beliefs independently or as a group, in public or in private, through teaching, religious practices, or rituals. According to the law, religious freedom can be restricted only if necessary to ensure public order and security, to protect public health and morality, or to protect a person’s rights and freedoms. The law also prohibits discrimination based on religious affiliation.
The law bans religious entities from engaging in political activity and prohibits “abusive proselytism,” which is defined as the action of changing a person’s or a group’s religious beliefs through coercion.
The law allows religious groups to establish associations and foundations. It 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.
The law provides for a registration process in which a religious group must present to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) a declaration including its exact name, fundamental principles of belief, organizational structure, scope of activities, financing sources, and rights and obligations of membership. The law also requires a group to show it has at least 100 founding members. A religious group must present proof of having access to premises where it can conduct its religious activities, but the law does not specify that the group must own this property. 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 if the documentation submitted is insufficient. 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 build churches, own land in cemeteries, and publish religious literature along with owning property, opening bank accounts, and hiring 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. All religious groups, whether registered or not, have freedom to worship.
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.
The law 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.
A provision in the law stipulates that the state recognizes the “exceptional importance and fundamental role” of Orthodox Christianity, particularly that of the MOC, in the life, history, and culture of the country.
The law defines as “extremist” and makes illegal any document or information justifying war crimes or the complete or partial annihilation of a religious or other kind of societal group, as well as any document calling for or supporting activities in pursuit of those goals.
According to the law, religion classes in state educational institutions are optional. The religious curriculum derives from instructional 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 these optional courses, which focus on Orthodox Christianity.
According to the law, citizens aged 18 to 27 have the right to choose civilian over military service if the latter is counter to their religious beliefs. The duration of the alternative civilian service is six months for citizens with higher education, and 12 months for citizens with secondary education or vocational studies. Civilian service is carried out at public institutions or enterprises specializing in such areas as social assistance, healthcare, industrial engineering, urban planning, roads and road construction, environment protection, agricultural associations or agricultural processing, town management, and fire rescue.
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 and must present documents confirming the official status of the registered religious group for which they will work, papers confirming the temporary residence, and proof of valid local health insurance.
The law mandates immunization of all children and does not provide an opt-out for religious reasons.
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, but the law restricts 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.” Foreign citizens also have the freedom to worship. The prosecutor’s office oversees implementation of the law on religious freedom.
Transnistrian law provides for the registration of religious groups, but registration is not legally required. The region’s self-professed 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 central religious organization 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, the group’s 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 de facto Transnistrian authorities decide to conduct a religious assessment, which is a law enforcement investigation of the group’s background and activities, registration may be postponed for up to six months or denied if the investigating authorities determine the group poses a threat to the security or morality of the region, or if foreign religious groups are involved in the activity.
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 private homes and apartments to hold religious services. It does not, however, allow religious groups to use homes and apartments as their officially registered addresses. The law also allows religious services and rituals in public places such as hospitals, clinics, orphanages, geriatric homes, and prisons.
The import and export of religious printed materials, audio and video recordings, and other religious items is subject to screening and any import or export can be banned upon a decision of the Transnistrian authorities.
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 activities or to support NGOs involved in elections.
A decree signed by Transnistrian leader Evgeny Shevchuk in February institutionalized alternative service for conscientious objectors to military duties. According to the law, citizens have the right to choose alternative civilian service over military service if the latter contradicts an individual’s religion and beliefs. At the same time, alternative civilian service can be performed only at organizations under the Transnistrian or “other military forces,” and at institutions subordinate to the “executive bodies of the state or local administration.” According to the Transnistrian criminal code, courts may sentence those who avoid or evade military service to imprisonment of three to 10 years.