U.S. State Department: Belarus restricts freedom of religion

The annual report of the U.S. State Department about the situation of religious freedom in almost 200 countries around the world, which today has sounded the head of this department, Hillary Clinton, Belarus ranked among the countries that do not have full freedom for all faiths.

In the overall evaluation of the religious life in Belarus, the U.S. State Department said:

"The government continued to restrict religious freedom during the reporting period with the provisions of the religion, to complicate or prevent the activities of other groups, Belarusian than Orthodox Church (BOC) which has special status thanks to an agreement with the government. In particular, the law limits the ability of religious organizations to organize religious education, requires the approval of the governments in the importation and distribution of literature, prohibits foreigners from leading religious organizations. The authorities forced many religious communities wait years for a decision on registration or restitution of property. Authorities harassed and fined members of certain religious groups, especially those who were seen as bearers of foreign cultural influence or political orientation. The government continued to deny registration to communities of non-traditional faiths, mainly Protestant groups, such as the "New Life Church" and "Belarusian Evangelical Church." Foreign missionaries, clergy and aid workers associated with the Protestant churches, faced obstacles from the government, including deportation and visa refusal or cancellation. Restrictions on foreign clergy in the country continued during the reporting period. There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Many of these reports were for vandalism and arson religious sites, buildings and monuments. "

Turning to the list of restrictions of religious life in Belarus last year (Of which we have repeatedly reported in our programs and on our website), U.S. Department of State wrote:

"The Government restricted freedom of religion, both directly and indirectly. Government introduced laws restricting the freedom of religion, speech and assembly, and the state registration of religious activity is a must. Government of the time was responsible for the acts of religious intolerance and regularly avoided condemnation of such acts."

The report notes that with regard to communities of belief, which the law since 2002, does not rank in the traditional Belarusian officials often used the offensive term "sect."

State Department report also notes that in the official use in Belarus are textbooks that are used in non-traditional faiths term "sect."

After the conversion of about three dozen examples of formal infringement of religious life in Belarus, the report also notes some positive developments in this area. In particular, the U.S. Department of State considers the introduction of such shifts sharply administrative penalty for promoting fascism and its characters.

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