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Moldovan Parliament passes law on religion in accordance with President Voronin's vision on Communists and Christians

Moldova's parliament on July 27 passed a new law on religion, incorporating amendments demanded by President Voronin who had called for a clause that "the state recognizes the special significance and primary role of the Orthodox Christian religion and the Orthodox Church in the life of the people of Moldova."

At Voronin's demand, parliament struck out a provision stipulating that "property rights on buildings of worship belong to the religious communities that founded them."

When parliament passed the unamended bill in its second reading, religious minorities were critical of a ban on "abusive proselytism," and of the clause denying legal status to religious communities with fewer than 100 members. The clauses regarding proselytization and small groups remain in the amended bill. The bill was first sent to parliament in October 2004.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has twice fined Moldova for denying religious communities legal status, and one of Moldova's Orthodox churches - the Bessarabian Orthodox Church which falls under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Orthodox Church - only gained registration after an ECHR ruling in 2001.

The newly stipulated special status for the Orthodox Church does not distinguish between the various Orthodox communities. However, at a gathering of bishops in July, Voronin, a Communist, likened the Communist Party to the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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