Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations

Law On Freedom Of Conscience And Religious Associations

Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations

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The Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations is a Russian law passed in 1997, signed by President Boris Yeltsin.

The law redefined the state's relationship with religion, as Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev had defined in a 1990 law. After the fall of Communism, Gorbachev had given much-needed breathing room to the practice of religion in Russia, whose culture's heart is Eastern Orthodoxy, but had also opened the door indescriminately and generally to the practice of religion. A new law was needed, to preserve Russia against what was considered the corruption of Orthodoxy.

The law was formulated and pushed by the Russian Orthodox Church, secular nationalists, and communists alike, with such determination that though Yeltsin vetoed the bill once, he could not legitimately do so a second time.

Written in the law was the upholding of separation of church and state; that there shall be no state religion. With that in mind, the following definitions and regulations are given:


  • religious organizations: at the level of individual church congregations
  • religious associations: whole denominations
  • religious groups: groups without legal status, such as a bible study group


  • Organizations may only be founded by Russian citizens
this ostensibly provided for national security.

  • All associations must have a religious purpose, including:
    • a creed,
    • regular worship services,
    • the conducting of religious education.
aimed at...... ... ...

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