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Ukraine: secular state or cleric country?

28.10.2011, 16:52
Ukraine is a secular state, and our Constitution clearly says this. But not everybody agrees. Thus, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchy initiates the introduction of orthodox projects into school agenda and opening of Ukrainian Orthodox University of Saint Volodymyr.

Ukraine is a secular state, and our Constitution clearly says this. But not everybody agrees.  

Thus, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchy initiates the introduction of orthodox projects into school agenda and opening of Ukrainian Orthodox University of Saint Volodymyr.

According to Church representative Georgiy Kovalenko, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church proposes some amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine and law 'On education', Radio Svoboda reported. 

Kovalenko explained that current Constitution gives the right of freedom to worship, but the church does not have a right to establish education institutions.

According to Kovalenko, differentiation of the church from the state and schools, provided by the Constitution, is understood incorrectly. "We do not want to change the Constitution, but to draw attention. That part on differentiation from schools is still considered in Soviet-atheistic sense, providing total prohibition for the church to have own institutes and schools and to cooperate with the state on education of the people," he noted. 

ForUm asked politicians and experts whether any confession has a right to initiate such changes to the legislation and what is possible reaction of the society to such changes.

Mykhailo Kosiv, BYuT deputy, head of the VR committee on culture and spirituality:

- In all European countries, except for Islamic ones, the church is separated from the state and, consequently, from school. That's why it is impossible to realize the proposition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Christian ethics, as philosophical science must be taught at schools, and not by priest, but by ordinary teachers with the knowledge of God's Law. I also stand for the church's right to form its own higher education institutions and for recognition of such diplomas at the state level. I mean such discipline as theology. I also believe this profession must be included into the state profession classification list. 

As for the initiative of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchy, I don't think representatives of this confession can be let in the schools. Its priests will promote their church, but then what about representatives of Kyiv Patriarchy, Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Greek Catholic Church, Protestants, Catholics or any other churches?

It will be chaos at the state level. Such initiative contradicts the Constitution and logic of public development. I am sure such initiative won't be passed.

Mykhailo Chechetov, BYuT deputy, head of the VR subcommittee on culture and spirituality:

- There is nothing to talk about until there is a concrete proposition from 150 deputies, and still it does not mean the initiative will be passed, as the parliament may not approve the amendment.

What we have now is someone expressing his opinion, nothing more.

 Oleksandr Holub, Communist party, deputy chairman of VR committee on freedom of speech and information:

- Ukraine is a secular state, and such initiatives are not only unwelcome by the society, but will also lead to serious problems. It is the situation when the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In case of such legislative changes, the state will be force to provide equal access for all religions. They should understand that many cults and sects will start fighting for children's souls, and we will get totally opposite effect than the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is hoping for. 

If parents want their children to study religion basics, it can be done at some courses or Sunday schools. Ukrainian legislation does not prohibit those.

Myroslav Popovich, Ph.D., director of Philosophy institute of National academy of science:

From the point of civilization experience such idea would be ruinous for Ukrainian national culture. Separation of church from the state is a necessary condition for free development of both religious views and secular society.

According to the Constitution, Ukraine is a secular society of European type. It means that Ukraine allows freedom of faith, which is incompatible with domination of any religion at school. If parents want to give their children religious education, the church can organize schools under its parishes, as well as higher education institutes, but out of state education.

Such initiative is an attack on the secular nature of the state. It will bring us back in XV – XVII centuries.

Viktor Musiaka, professor of law, one of the authors of the Constitution of 1996, former MP:

- In Soviet times people were completely separated from the church. But now it is not like this any longer. 

As for religious education institutes, they are not prohibited in Ukraine. We don't have any problems with creed and freedom of faith. There are no obstacles for a man to live with his faith. The God is one, but there are various paths to him. And these paths are not prohibited by the Constitution.

If they speak about those times, when government of the state and government of the church were all in one, this is a different question.

Iryna Bekeshkina, sociologist, manager of the "Democratic initiatives" fund:

- It is very serious changes to the Constitution and transformation of Ukraine into cleric state (when church influences politics and all spheres of social life through legislative bodies - ed.). 

Ukraine is a country of many confessions. Orthodox branch dominates, but there are also unbelievers and undecided. If such subject introduced into school agenda, children would be forced to study it. It contradicts with the freedom of faith, provided by the Constitution. And it is just violence against man.   
Volodymyr Tsybulko, expert:

- Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchy is the biggest regarding the number of parishes. But at the same time it is not the most popular among Ukrainians.

I want to remind that the most popular church among Ukrainian believers is Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchy. Greek Catholic Church also has its realm. On the territory, which is considered by Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchy as canonical, there are believers of different confessions. And I also want to remind that the Constitution provides for equal distance from the state for all church organizations.

I think that losing the fight for spiritual order of the man, for his spiritual territory, some church representatives try to recover with the help of administrative methods. But this fight is not for souls, but for financial markets.

27 October 2011 ForUm