Thursday, September 21, 2006

In the news: not everyone happy with new religion law

Forum 18 is reporting that while evangelicals are happy about the new law others are objecting to its apparent exclusivity.  As has been mentioned before Evangelicals were included among the five official religions communities.  This is because the evangelical church substantially predates the war.  The first Albanian evangelicals date to the 1980's while Serbian evangelicals date much earlier to 1967.  The tradition of evangelical theology, though not called "evangelical" specifically dates into the 1800's.

Whle the text of the law hasn't been released pubically, as far as I know, the text of the parliament's submission to UNMIK is here.

Pastor Aslimovski is incorrect, however, in stating that the Evangelical community is in fact Pentecostal, as indicated in his quote below.  KPEC, the evangelical community of Kosovo is a voluntary organization of protestant churches and organizations who hold to the Lausanne Covenant.  This is the only confessional/doctrinal requirement for membeship.  I wholeheartedly agree with him that the law should be clear on how religious communities get legal status.  It should not be left until later.  Only when we see the final text of the law will we really know where we are on that question.

While some Protestants are jubilant that the new religion law approved by the Kosovo Assembly on 13 July has been amended by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to specify five of the faiths by name that enjoy rights and freedoms (Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics, Jews and Evangelicals) others are critical. "If it is true that the Evangelical (Pentecostal) church is mentioned it is not right, since all should be mentioned or none," Adventist pastor Nikola Aslimovski complained to Forum 18 News Service. UNMIK promulgated the law on 24 August, but only made this public on 20 September. The law fails to tackle the highly contentious issue of how and which religious communities will get legal status. "Everything should be nailed down in one law," one religious freedom expert told Forum 18. "Nothing should ever be left vague to be returned to later."


bytycci said...

Hi Jeff,
I have read the Forum 18 report. Isn't the tax exempt status the main issue? I mean, do those "religions" that appear on the document have more advantage when it comes to tax exemptions? Otherwise, may be none of the religions should be mentioned in the document, since anyone can believe in whatever they want, so why does it matter.

Jeff said...


Qysh je? A je mirë? Thanks for dropping by.

You're asking some good questions. Yes, this law does touch on tax status. But the law is far more broad than that. In the preamble it states: the right of all, without discrimination on any ground and in full equality before the law, to freedom of expression, conscience and religion, regardless of religious conviction or conscience...

The intent of the law is to clarify how religious groups are to function within the society from a legal standpoint. The law provides protections to worshippers that aren't articulated anywhere else.

It also articulates:
1. a position on discrimination based on religion
2. the rite to freedom of conscience
3. the right to form charitable organizations
4. the rite to join or leave one religions community for another
5. a position on hate-speech, intolerance and prejudice
6. how religious weddings apply to the law
7. grants the freedom to establish schools
8. enables religious organizations to own property
9. gives inmates, members of the KPC, hospital patients the right to visits by the clergy of their choice

... and much more.
This is really a foundational law as relates to religion and Kosova.

In most countries of the world rights have to be articulated in law in order to be granted. That is different from the US where the law generally assumes a right unless a law stipulates otherwise.

This matters a great deal to members of all religions. Specifying five traditional faith groups of Kosovo is an attempt by the government to define existing religious groups based on who was in Kosovo prior to the war in 1999.