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Human Rights in Serbia 2000


X - Freedom of Religion


1. Legal regime

Legal provisions related to freedom of religion are systematised in constitutions of Serbia and the FRY. Both Constitutions articulate two basic principles of the aforementioned freedom: the non-establishment principle and the free exercise principle in the following manner:

"Church is separated from the state. Churches are equal and free in conducting religious affairs and officiating rites." (Article 18, the FRY Constitution); "Religious communities act in accordance with the non-establishment principle and are free in conducting religious affairs and officiating religious rites." (Article 41, para. 2. Of the Constitution of Serbia)

"Freedom of religion, private or public exercise of religious beliefs and free officiating of religious rites are guaranteed" (Article 43, para. 1 of the FRY Constitution); "Freedom of religion, including free exercise of religious beliefs and free officiating of religious rites are guaranteed" (Article 41, para.1 of the Serbian Constitution)

The non-establishment principle includes two legal aspects. Firstly this principle guarantees the existence of wall of separation between the state and religious organisations as institutions. This wall of separation means that one religion cannot be considered superior to another. This wall of separation serves the following purpose: a) it secures the autonomy of church from interference of state into activities of church bodies and b) it secures autonomy of state in regulating social life without influence of church.

Secondly, the non-establishment principle guarantees a certain area of civil liberty. Namely its presupposes that laws and state bodies decisions are equally mandatory for all, that is, it allows no exception from this general rule based on religious beliefs or individual consciousness. Everone must abide by the law. Law determines the same rights and duties of all citizens. In the area of freedom of religion this means that nobody can be privileged or disenfranchised on grounds of his or her religious beliefs.

Free exercise principle embraces two legal concepts: freedom to believe and freedom to act. Law guarantees to every individual an absolute protection of freedom to believe, in the sense that everybody is free to adopt or build any system of values. On the other hand freedom to act means that every citizen must be protected from demands to act against his religious beliefs. Freedom to act rests on "the right to personal autonomy" defined as "the right to choose his or her way of life" Purpose of free exercise of religious beliefs is to protect choices determining identity of an individual and define his or her relations wit other human beings.


2. Anti-constitutional acts

In the last two months of 2000 there was extensive press coverage on 15 cases which can be characterised as "acts contrary to legal-constitutional regime of freedom of religion. All those cases constituted flagrant breaches of the non-establishment principle. And those cases were:

In assessing Kostunica's visit to Moscow, Bishop Sava, member of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church (in further text: SOC) stressed that this was the first ever joint visit of the state and church delegations to Moscow in the entire history of the Russian Orthodox Church and SOC and their peoples. (Danas, 28-29 October 2000)

Assembly of Municipality of Nova Varos asked the SPC to dismiss Epicsope Filaret from his position of head of Eparchy Mileseva on grounds of his political engagement (Glas javnosti, 1 November 2000, Ekspres Politika, 3 November 2000).

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica gave the icon of the Virgin Mary with Christ to Saint George Church at Oplenac, the Karadjordjevic family mausoleum. (Vecernje Novosti, 4 November 2000)

The French-Yugoslav Alliance celebrated in Belgrade Assembly its patron saint day in presence of Patriarch Pavle. Reception was hosted by Milan Protic, Mayor of Belgrade. (Borba, 13 November 2000)

At the suggestion of the Ministry for Religions, the Yugoslav government donated 2 million dinars to Saint Sava Temple in Vracar, Belgrade. (Ekspres Politika, 15 November 2000)

The state of Serbia is funding the construction of Saint Vasilije Ostroski church and Saint Vasilije Turoski temple in Leposavic, Kosovo. (Glas javnosti, 20 November 2000). This assistance, although contrary to the non-establishment principle cannot be characterised as an anti-constitutional act, because of confusion and lack of skill of drafters of the Constitution of Serbia. That is, Article 41 of the Constitution of Serbia expressly formulates two mutually exclusive rules: according to article 41, paragraph 2, religious organisations are separated from the state, while according to Article 41, paragraph 4, the state can render financial assistance to religious communities. Such absurdities do not exist in the FRY Constitution.

Duke Aleksandar Pavle Karadjordjevic met with head of Head of Joint Chiefs of Staff , General Nebojsa Pavkovic in his private residence. Duke used to fly fighter planes and Commander of the War Aviation and Air Defence System of the Yugoslav Army conferred on him the title of honorary pilot of the Yugoslav Air Force. For the first time since the end of WW2 a Yugoslav Army unit, namely pilots gathered at the military airport "Batajnica" were greeted with "God help you, heroes." They were thus addressed by Aleksandar Karadjordjevic.

First move of the Novi Beograd municipal assembly was a change of municipal holiday. From now on instead of 11 April, the day on which construction of New Belgrade began, the day of "Shroud of the Virgin Mary" shall be celebrated as the suburb's holiday. (Danas, 25-26 November 2000)

According to Mr. Dimitrije Stikic, religious educator and associate of the Religious Education Office of the SOC Patriarchate religious education classes are being held in kindergartens in municipality Savski Venac and in cerebral paralysis ward of "Dragisa Misovic" hospital. (Politika, 3 December 2000)

National library "Vuk Karadzic" and Novi Beograd municipal assembly staged a cultural night "To the glory of Hilandar" on 2000 years of Christianity. (Danas, 4 December 2000)

According to Dragan Novakovic, Secretary of the Republican Minister for Religions, costs of private visit of President Kostunica to Hilandar, were borne by the state. (Danas, 8 December 2000)

Religious education is imparted in local administration offices, cultural centres and agricultural centres in the Pozega area. (Glas javnosti, 16 December 2000)

Heir to the throne Aleksandar Karadjordjevic with wife Katarina and Duchess Jelisaveta celebrated the saint patron day of family Karadjordjevic (Saint Apostle Andrew) for the first time in his homeland, in the former Old Court, and currently Assembly of the City of Belgrade, on 13 December 2000. The cake was cut by Patriarch Pavle, Head of the SOC. Children choir sang "Boze pravde " and "Singoriza". Guests were met by Milan Protic, the Belgrade Mayor. 800 guests, diplomatic representatives, members of the Crown Council and the state and city authorities, attended the reception. (Glas javnosti, 14 December 2000)

In Belgrade kindergarten "Sveta Petka" and in other 9 day-care centres within the pre-school institution Savski Venac classes of religious education were held in November 1999-June 2000 period. The Education Ministry banned those unauthorised and syllabus-free classes. (Politika, 14 December 2000)

Branko Petrovic, Head of Information Service of the Assembly of Valjevo Municipality, stated that the building of the Assembly of Municipality of Valjevo was consecrated without any pomp and publicity, but with the blessing of Lavrentije, Episcope of Sabac and Valjevo. (Politika, 29 December 2000)

Kosta Kovjanic, priest of the Orthodox church of Saint Apostle Paul in Petrovaradin holds classes of religious education every Thursday in local community premises in Petrovaradin. (Danas, 6-8 January 2001)


3. Political framework of anti-constitutional acts

All the aforementioned cases happened in a very specific political milieu, characterised by three basic features: firstly, expression of political will of governmental and political structures, that is, a process of rapprochement between the state and the SOC, secondly expression of political will of the church dignitaries to effect such rapprochement, followed by similar attempts of the Roman Catholic Church, thirdly expression of political will of public media, that is a benign position of notably Belgrade media on the process of the state-SOC rapprochement, manifested through a specific mechanism of "public opinion shaping"

In the next part of the text we shall illustrate those processes through the Belgrade press coverage. Rare examples of different positions should be understood only as exceptions from general, or dominant trends.

a. Political will of governmental and political structures

Members of the SOC Synod had talks with Milan Protic, the Belgrade Mayor, on issues of vital importance for the SOC, in the SOC Patriarchate. (Politika, 2 November 2000 and Borba, 2 November 2000)

Colonel General Nebojsa Pavkovic, Head of Joint Staff of the Yugoslav Army, and Patriarch Pavle had talks on engagement of ordained priests in the YA units. General Pavkovic stressed that this was one of the more important issues to be tackled within the entire complex of freedom of religion of the YA members and stressed that the YA-SOC rapprochement would continue. (Blic, 5 November 2000)

Gordana Anicic, Minister for Religions in the interim government of Serbia, urged introduction of religious education in state schools and presence of priests in hospitals, army barracks and prisons. (Vecernje novosti, 10 November 2000)

Patriarch Pavle met with Gordana Anicic, the Serbian Minister for Religions. They talked about introduction of religious education in primary and secondary schools in Serbia, restitution of church property and other relevant state-SOC issues. (Pravoslavlje, 15 November 2000)

Prime Minister and eight federal ministers met with Patriarch Pavle and members of the SOC Synod in Patriarchate. The federal government urged this meeting, for according to Prime Minister Zoran Zizic, "members of government wish to be blessed by His Holiness Patriarch Pavle before embarking upon their responsible duties, in view of the high esteem in which the Serb people have always held the SOC." (Politika, 16 November 2000)

Yugoslav Prime Minister Zizic promised that the federal government would work on a swift resolution of outstanding problems between the SOC and state, by passing adequate legislation. (Borba, 16 November 2000)

Patriarch Pavle met with Zoran Lilic, President of the Serbian Social Democratic Party in Belgrade. They talked about the return of displaced Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija and national reconciliation in Serbia, the FRY and in diaspora (Glas javnosti, 18 November 2000, Blic, 18 November 2000)

Zoran Zizic, Federal Prime Minister, Bogoljub Sijakovic, Federal Minister for Religions and Budimir Dubak, the Montenegrin Minister for Religions, took part in ceremony of consecration of church Ostroski skit in Jovan dol. ( Danas, 28-30 November 2000)

Yugoslav President Kostunica and Prime Minister Zizic announced their imminent, private visit to the Serb monastery, Hilandar (Danas, 28-30 November 2000)

Gordana Anicic, Serbian Minister for Religions, announced restitution of property to SOC, introduction of religious education in schools and return of the Theological Faculty to the fold of the Belgrade University.. According to Anicic "presence of priests should be ensured in hospitals, in the Yugoslav army, prisons and correctional facilities. As a Minister for Religions I shall try to right 50-year old wrongs inflicted by the ideological state to our church." ( Glas javnosti, 2 December 2000) "The aforementioned shall ensure the right place for the SOC in our society," added Anicic. (Ekspres politika, 2 December 2000)

President Vojislav Kostunica, Prime Minister Zoran Zizic and 19 other ministers and high officials took part in celebrations of the patron saint day in Hilandar. (Glas javnosti, 4 December 2000, Danas, 4 December 2000).

"A state can survive only if it rests on a solid faith," said Vojislav Kostunica during his lunch at Hilendar. During his visits to other monasteries he also recommended "the venturesome, state-making and spiritual journey of Saint Sava." (Politika, 5 December 2000)

Celebrations of the patron saint day in Hilandar monastery were similar to a "political mini summit" (Politika, 5 December 2000)

"I don' care about queries whether it is politically correct for the politicians to visit Hilandar. This is my personal gesture," said Milan Protic, the Belgrade mayor. (Politika, 5 December 2000)

"Here in Hilandar we are laying the groundwork for the reconstruction of the state," stated Velimir Ilic, Mayor of Cacak. (Politika, 5 December 2000)

"Inspired by example of Patriarch Pavle, we who have been given the power to run Yugoslav affairs, shall do it as ordinary men and not as power-holders," promised Zoran Zizic, the Federal Prime Minister. (Politika, 5 December 2000)

"Hilandar calls on us to act as in a united and sensible manner, and we, at this junction need very much both sensibility and unity," assessed Budimir Dubak, the Montenegrin Minister for Religions (Politika, 5 December 2000)

Bogoljub Sijakovic, Minister for Religions in the federal government, imparted the Hilandar blessing to all the Orthodox Christians in the FRY and its best wishes for the personal success of all citizens of Yugoslavia. He stressed that President Kostunica's visit to Hilandar represented "a return to the source of our spirituality and the best way for consolidating our personal and state identity." (Politika, 6 December 2000)

Bogoljub Sijakovic, the Federal Minister for Religions and Professor Radovan Bigovic, Dean of the Theological Faculty in Belgrade stated that "our state should sign a kind of legally binding contract with the SOC and religious communities in our country or pass a law precisely regulating relations between the church and state, as it was done by all the civilised countries in the world. (Ekspres Politika, 7 December 2000)

Saint George is the patron saint of three parties, members of DOS. Namely "DJurdjevdan" is celebrated by Democratic Party, Democratic Party of Serbia and Christian Democratic Party of Serbia. New Serbia's patron saint is Saint Simeon Mirotocivi, while the Serbian Radical Party celebrates Three Holy Hierarchs. The Serbian Renewal Movement celebrates Holy Martyr Tzar Lazar and all holy martyrs of Serbia. Slobodan Kovacevic, President of Coalition Sumadija stated that "faith is the most intimate feeling of every individual and religious feelings cannot be imposed. Moreover every Serb has his patron saint day and Coalition Sumadija does not want to disclose its patron saint, for it would be tantamount to sheer political marketing." (Politika, 8 December 2000)

Zivojin Stjepic, Deputy Republican Minister for Religions announced a new bill on relations between the church and state in 2001. He also said that the nationalised church property would be restituted and Faculty of Theology would return to the fold of the Belgrade University. (Ekspres Politika, 8 December 2000).

Dragan Novakovic, an adviser to the Republican Ministry for Religions, stressed that Kostunica made a private visit to Hilandar..." hence attempts to politicise this visit are not grounded." (Vecernje Novosti, 8 December 2000) But he also said that the travel costs of Kostunica and his high-ranking entourage were borne by the state. (Danas, 8 December 2000)

Vladeta Jankovic, Vice President of Democratic Party of Serbia said that in Hilandar Kostunica was received with great honours, similar to the ones once accorded to medieval rulers. (Politika, 12 December 2000)

On 12 December 2000 Dr. Zoran DJindjic met with Patriarch Pavle in Patriarchate. Their talks held in a cordial atmosphere focused on the forthcoming SOC co-operation with the state bodies of Serbia. (Vecernje novosti, 13 December 2000)

Gordana Anicic, the Republican Minister for Religions, stated: "It was agreed to introduce religious education in schools," (Blic, 13 December 2000)

Bojan Aleksic, Deputy Republican Education Minister urged introduction of religious education and stressed that any syllabus contrary to the SOC principles would be rejected. (Glas javnosti, 15 December 2000)

Dejan Lucic, President of the Commission for Relations with Religious Communities of Democratic Party urged that religious education be a facultative subject-matter (Glas javnosti 15 December 2000)

Gaso Knezevic, Education Minister of Serbia thinks that religious education should have a multi-confessional character. (Glas javnosti 15 December 2000)

Dragoljub Micunovic, President of the House of Citizens of the Federal Parliament thus commented the proposal that religious education be introduced in school curricula: " I think religious education should be a facultative subject-matter and I am against any imposition of religious viewpoints on the world." (Glas javnosti, 15 December 2000)

Zivojin Stjepic, Deputy Republican Minister for Religions announced adoption of the law regulating relations between the church and state and outlined its field of enforcement: introduction of religious education in schools, restitution of property to religious communities and resolution of the status of Faculty of Theology. (Politika, 15 December 2000)

Colonel Dragan Vuksic from Movement for Democratic Serbia opposed introduction of religious education in schools and engagement of priests by the army. He urged study of theological knowledge within philosophy and sociology of religion. (Danas, 16-17 December 2000)

Zoran DJindjic and Vladan Batic met with the Montenegrin Mitropolite Amfilohije in Belgrade. (Danas, 27 December 2000)

In analysing discussions on introduction of religious education in schools, Gaso Knezevic, the Education Minister of Serbia, condemned aggressive approach taken both by opponents and advocates of this idea. "We all need religious education in terms of history of religion, but we should take note of the fact that this is a multi-confessional society. The fact that children are under-age and that their parents might be attracted by this novelty, are arguments against introduction of religious education as a facultative subject-matter." (Danas, 5 January 2001)

Patriarch Pavle on 5 January met with delegation of the Yugoslav army headed by Colonel General Nebojsa Pavkovic, Chief of Staff of the YA. On behalf of the YA General Pavkovic gave Orthodox Christmas greetings to the SOC Patriarch, all priests and monks and believers. Major General, Milan Simic, Head of the Morals Department of the YA, informed Patriarch Pavle of implementation of the right to freedom of religion in the YA and announced engagement of priests by the army. (Danas, 6-8 January 2001)

Gordana Anicic, the republican Minister for Religions, sent her Christmas congratulations to "Patriarch, monks, priests and believers" on 5 January 2001. "At the watershed of ages our people are finally liberated from a decade-long grip of ideological state. Democratic changes shall help us finally resolve the problem of seized church property, introduce religious education in all our schools and return the Faculty of Theology to the fold of the Belgrade University. After its spiritual recovery the Serb people would be finally able to reconstruct its state and take its rightful place in the family of Christian peoples of Europe," read the Christmas message of Minister Anicic. (Danas, 6-8 January 2001)

b. Political will of the Church

The top SOC meeting focused on the work of religious-educational institutions (Danas, 2 November 2000), that is on "the issue of the SOC-imparted education."(Politika, 2 November 2000).

Episcope Vasilije of Srem stated that the church sided with the "right people" and expressed satisfaction with the fact that the new federal president was Vojislav Kostunica. He said he had faith in new close ties between the SOC and new authorities. (Glas javnosti, 3 November 2000, Borba, 3 November 2000)

At the session of its Synod the SOC set up a Commission for Elaboration of Educational Curricula for the subject-matter religious education in primary and secondary schools. Commission is headed by Episcope Ignjatije of Branicevo. (Vecernje Novosti, Ekspres Politika, Politika, Blic, 4 November 2000)

The SOC Synod paid special attention to introduction of religious education as a regular subject-matter in primary and secondary schools. To that end a Commission for Elaboration of Syllabus was set up: The Commission is headed by Episcope Ignjatije of Branicevo. (Pravoslavlje, 15 November 2000)

Arhimandrite Mojsije of Hilandar monastery officially invited the FRY President Vojislav Kostunica to visit Monastery Hilandar on the day of the monastery's patron saint, Vavedenje of the Virgin Mary on 4 December. (Glas javnosti, 21 November 2000)

In his meeting with the delegation of the branch trade union of educational professionals of Serbia, "Nezavisnost," Patriarch Pavle backed the trade union's initiative for introduction of religious education in primary and secondary schools. (Vecernje novosti, Politika, 21 November 2000)

After his meeting with Patriarch Pavle the Ljubljana Roman-Catholic Archbishop Franc Rode was asked by a Blic journalist whether the Roman Catholic Church would mediate in re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Belgrade and Ljubljana. Archbishop Rode answered: "those diplomatic ties are to be shortly re-established."

Episcope Artemije of Raska and Prizren invited the federal prime minister Zoran Zizic and Bogoljub Sijakovic, Minister for Religions, to attend celebrations of the patron saint day in monastery Decani on 24 November (Danas, 24 November 2000)

Veselin Sijakovic, president of the church municipality of Niksic, asked all the officials of the FRY and SOC "to help overcome problems in Montenegro" and "help Serbia, Montenegro and Republika Srpska unite in a state," for "if they fail to do that, they shall be held accountable before God and people." (Danas, 28-30 November, 2000)

Milan Protic, Velimir Ilic and Mihajlo Markovic, Co-Presidents of Nova Srbija gladly accepted invitation of fraternity of Hilandar Monastery to visit the temple on the day of its patron, the Virgin Mary. (Danas, 2-3 December 2000)

Dimitrije Stikic, religious educator and adviser to the religious education office of Patriarachate thinks that the state should proclaim Orthodox Religion a state religion. He stresses that it would not put at risk other religions in our country, but would lower their status. (Politika, 3 December 2000)

Dimso Peric, a priest and professor of theological law at the Belgrade Law Faculty espouses the following thesis: "The existing constitutional solution of the Church status in the state is not good. One should have in mind the fact that in addition to Orthodox believers in the FRY there are also Roman-Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and others who cannot be equalised with Orthodox believers. Most destructive phenomenon in the past 60 years has been the export of sects (...) Under the trademark of human rights the world, if necessary, shall introduce in our Constitution, even Satanists. But what suits them, does not suit us. Innocuous sects do not exist (...) Which status should the SOC be accorded in the state? Serbia should be the state of Serb people and not the state of citizens ( ...) The state must persist in bargaining on that position(...) Introduction of religious education is the most vital issue. It should be mandatory. Both the Church and state would benefit from such a move(...) We can discuss the return of Theological Faculty within the fold of Belgrade University only if religious education becomes mandatory. What is mandatory for Belgrade University, must be mandatory for Theological Faculty. The second, very important issue is the return of priests to hospitals, prisons and army (...) Should we view with indifference the swearing-in ceremony of the FRY President or he should be sworn by priests and before Holy Gospels? (Politika, 10 December 2000)

"Topics of talks between the Pope and Vojislav Kostunica, FRY President are not so important...", Danas was told by Archbishop Eugenio Sbarbaro, the Apostolic Nunzio to Yugoslavia. He also said that he met briefly with Kostunica and his entourage after their return from Rome. "They told me they were pleased with their talks with the Holy Father" (Danas, 13 December 2000)

The Belgrade Roman-Catholic Archbishop France Perko welcomed the initiative for introduction of religious education in schools (Blic, 13 December 2000)

Priests of Montenegrin Metropolinate voiced concern over "increased violence of impassioned political circles against Metropolinate ... to achieve their ends they use a group of offenders from the self-styled Montenegrin Orthodox Church." (Politika, 18 December 2000)

"Montenegrin authorities are encouraging a group of church delinquents from self-styled Montenegrin Orthodox Church to violate the religious rights of the Montenegrin Metropolinate " (Danas, 22 December 2000) and "that is why Montenegro today is the last bastion of neobolshevism and totalitarianism in Europe." (Glas javnosti, 22 December 2000)

Karolj Hermet, a Franciscan priest from Novi Sad stressed that he was personally against introduction of religious education in schools. (Danas, 23-24 December 2000)

In his interview to Belgrade weekly NIN, Patriarch Pavle stated: "We think that the best solution is a community between Serbia and Montenegro. As regards the Orthodox Church is has always been united." He also stated: "Religious education should be mandatory only for those who want to study it. Otherwise it should be a facultative subject-matter, for its imposition would be contrary to Christianity and Serbian Orthodox Church tenets. " (Danas, 6-8 January 2001)

c. Political will of mass media

On the occasion of Kostunica's visit to Hilandar monastery the following headlines were bannered: "Kostunica, the fourth after Nemanjici" (Politika, 28, 29 and 3o November 2000), "Hilandar patron saint celebrations, summit of politicians", "Wider implications of Kostunica's visit to Hilandar and celebrations of 'Vavedenje of the Virgin Mary,' on the Greek soil," "Political pilgrimage to the place older than our divisions" (Politika, 4 December 2000), "Kostunica ends visit to the Holy Mount," "The road of spiritual recovery," (Politika, 5 December 2000.)

The polls indicated that the majority of citizens approved introduction of religious education in schools. Consequently the following headlines were bannered: "Young people yearn for religious education," "Religious knowledge, part of general culture" (Politika, 18 December 2000)

Much publicity was given to protests of the SOC dignitaries over the take-over of thirty church institutions of the Montenegrin Metropolinate by canonically unrecognised Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Those protests were in fact tantamount to the SOC criticism of political positions of the ruling political structures in Montenegro. Most hyped were the following statements: "Priests of the Montenegrin Metropolinate with regret take note of the fact that Montenegro is being turned into a lawless country, in which at work is an ideological brain-washing campaign staged through the media." "Substance-abuse, white slavery, smuggling and criminality are on the rise in Montenegro. Under the guise of privatisation and introduction of the market economy, the state is being plundered, former secretaries of the Communist Party and the top police officials are amassing their wealth, while broad strata are being turned into an army of beggars." (Danas, 18 December 2000). Priesthood of Metropolinate express their hope that "Montenegro shall finally embark upon the right road, in line with its age-old experience and proven values, liberated from the new Dukljan-Pagan mythomania orchestrated by the offspring of Bolshevic-Titoist ideology" (Politika, 18 December 2000). Metropolite Amfilohije stated: "Montenegro is a bastion of neobolshevism and totalitarianism in Europe, for under the guise of democracy and slogan "Let us live better" fundamental human rights are being trampled upon and property of the Montenegrin Metropolinate is being seized." He also criticised canonically unrecognised Montenegrin Orthodox Church: "That schizophrenic movement lays claim to 800-years old property of Metropolinate, without any canonically or legally based rights. That movement is manipulated by a group of power-greedy politicians bent on attaining their goals." (Glas javnosti, 22 December 2000)

From the extensive press coverage of this issue, we have chosen the following hadlines: "Montenegrin regime deepens division" (Danas, 18 December 2000), "Stop politician's harassment of the church," (Politika, 18 December 2000), "Police wages war against the SOC," (Glas javnosti, 18 december 2000), "Priest Radomir Nikcevic puts his life at stake in defence of a Vlah Church in Cetinje," "Why DJukanovic keeps mum", "Clash between the SOC and unrecognised Montenegrin church threatens to escalate," (Glas javnosti, 19 December 2000), "Priest Radomior Nikcevic still imprisoned in a Cetinje church", "Defrocked priest dismisses head of police", "Students in Podgorica hold a protest rally in front of the Montenegrin Parliament" (Glas javnosti, 20 December 2000); "New outburst of violence is feared" (Danas, 22 December 2000), Dialogue between the imprisoned priest and the Montenegrin Justice Minister : "Do not leave the government," "If they do not keep their word we shall leave the government," said Dragan Soc; "That is exactly what they want; they want you to leave the government" answered priest Radomir Nikcevic. (Politika, 23 December 2000), "Fraternity of the Orthodox Youth sends a letter to Montenegrin President : "You are largely to be blamed for such a high degree of lawlessness in Montenegro" (Politika, 23 December 2000); "Priest Radomir 10 days without water and food in Cetinje," "Nikcevic under threat of dehydration", "Zoran Zizic and Predrag Bulatovic visit Nikcevic," "Conversation through church bars", "Protests of Orthodox Youth of Montenegro," "Plea to DJukanovic to protect them," (Glas javnosti, 24 December 2000), "Protests in front of the Montenegrin Presidency in Podgorica," "The SOC Synod asks DJukanovic to intercede" "Protest of Radomir Nikacevic, a priest of a Serb church in Cetinje," "Night on the grave of metropolite Ilarion Roganovic," (Politika, 25 December 2000), "Priest Nikcevic continues protest against Montenegrin authorities," "Twelve days imprisoned in a Serb church," (Politika, 26 December 2000), "Patriarch Pavle asks DJukanovic to protect rights of the Montenegrin Metropolinate," "Nobody has the right to seize property of the SOC." (Danas, 26 December 2000)

Glas javnosti reported that the priest Radomir Nikcevic left the church in an article headlined "Nikcevic successfully defended a Serb church from forces of evil," and ran his statement: "I am particularly grateful to Glas javnosti for objective and timely coverage of the Vlash church developments. Your coverage helped me persist in my struggle." (Glas javnosti, 29 December 2000).


4. Legal arguments for and against introduction of religious education in state schools and suggestions how to resolve this issue

In this part of text we shall contest legal argument favouring the attempts to introduce religious education in primary and secondary schools in the territory of FRY, and also put forward practical proposals for overcoming the current dispute.

Legal arguments favouring introduction of religious education in state schools rest on specific demands for freedom of religion. It is for example said that introduction of religious education would protect the following individual rights:

the right of individual to get knowledge about his/her faith (Bishop Ignjatije, Vecernje Novosti, 26 November 2000)

the right to be a believer (Bogoljub Sijakovic, Minister for Religions, Blic, 6-8 January 2001) in which the Minister instead of the word "right" uses words "open possibility to be a believer" and adds "this possibility to be a believer cannot be reduced or repressed by schools. It should be in fact -protected.";

the right to adequate education (Bogoljub Sijakovic, Danas, 7 December 2000). It is not clear to which categories-political or legal, the Minister is referring when talking about "the right to adequate education," or "adequate education."

the right to choose personal viewpoints on the world "which must be guaranteed in public schools" (Bogoljub Sijakovic, the Serbian Minister for Religions", Danas, 7 December 2000);

the right to havereligious viewpoints on the world (Bogoljub Sijakovic, the Serbian Minister for Religions, Politika, 7 December 2000)

"natural right" of parents to educate their children "which cannot be suspended by any school system" (the Serbian Minister for Religions, Bogoljub Sijakovic, Blic, 6-8 January 2001) It is not clear what the minister means when he talks about "natural rights of parents," as such a right does not exist from the legal standpoint. In fact there are only parental rights stemming from constitutional and legal texts;

the right of parents to educate their children in the spirit of their faith (Bogoljub Sijakovic, the Serbian Minister for Religions, 7 December 2000,) "which entails duty and responsibility of parents to freely educate their children in the spirit of faith which they firmly believe to be true and salvation-bringing. (Blic, 6-8 January 2001). Not a single constitutional or legal provision lays down the aforementioned.

It is furthermore stated that no legal regulation envisaging introduction of religious education in schools is needed for "such an introduction is not legally banned in any legal text." (Bogoljub Sijakovic, Blic, 6-8 January 2001)

And it is finally stated that religious education advocacy has a democratic legitimacy "in the freely expressed will of peoples, represented by the FRY Parliament, which backed the government program urging introduction of subject of religious education" (Bogoljub Sijakovic, The Serbian Minister for Religions, Blic, 6-8 January 2001)

If one analyses from a legal standpoint all the here presented arguments, one may draw the following conclusions:

Firstly, the rule of law principle determines that "a democratic legitimacy" cannot turn any anti-legal act into a legal one.

Secondly, legislation stipulating introduction of religious education in state schools is both unnecessary and legally impossible because of constitutional bans contained in the obligation to honour the non-establishment principle. In other words, a pure non-establishment principle presupposes the following:

In state schools religious education cannot be a mandatory, facultative, alternative, optional subject. And why? Because it if became a syllabus subject it would constitute a breach of provision of article 62 of the FRY Constitution and article 32 of the Serbian Constitution, which guarantee free education to all, under equitable conditions. Were religious education to be introduced in the state schools children would not be equal with respect to the knowledge gained, school obligations, number of classes, free time, etc.

a building or courtyard of state school cannot be used for holding classes of religious education even on non-working days or after regular classes, as it was recently the case with some kindergartens, local communities, municipalities, etc.

budgetary allocations for organising or holding classes of religious education are banned. c) it is banned to favour or assist citizens of one faith over citizens of another faith or atheists. And why? Because it would constitute violations of provisions of article 20 of the FRY Constitution and article 13 of the Serbian Constitution, that citizens are equal regardless of their faith. Furthermore education is financed from public revenues (article 32 of the Serbian Constitution), as are other public institutions, for example kindergartens, cultural centres, local offices or local communities. Added to that the burden of financing such religious education classes would be unjustly shouldered by parents of pupils who do not attend such classes. It would put them in an unequal position with respect to parents whose children are attending religious education classes.

It is banned to compel citizens to declare their faith, for such an act constitutes a violation of provision of article 43 of the FRY Constitution that nobody is duty-bound to declare his or her faith or religious beliefs. And the whys and wherefores for the ban? Because every citizen enjoys the right to privacy, protected by article 22 of the FRY Constitution and article 18 of the Serbian Constitution. A pupil by attendance or non-attendance of a religious education class implicitly, but also publicly declares his or her faith.

It is banned to assist or favour one church or some churches over other church or churches irrespective of its/their "objective" strength, status in the society, size of its membership. And why? Because if it were done it would constitute a breach of provision of article 18 of the FRY Constitution laying down that all Churches are equal. In a multi-confessional society it is difficult to imagine that all state schools could provide every pupil of every faith with an opportunity to attend classes of religious education organised by members of his faith. And because lack of opportunity to organise classes of religious education for a pupil or pupils who belong to a "small" church, in only one school, represents a breach of principle of equality of churches.

Thirdly, the claim to introduce religious education in state schools by its legal nature is not in line with freedom of religion. Hence it cannot rest on specific demands stemming from the general free exercise principle.. As we have already noted the principle of free expression of religious beliefs presupposes that every citizen enjoys protection from the demand that he or she act contrary to his or her religious beliefs. This principle implies the right to personal autonomy, the right of every individual to choose his/her own way of life, to protect choices which define his or her identity, etc.

In those terms the free exercise of religion is "freedom from state regulation," the latter's goal being only determination of the field of freedom of individuals, that is "everything that a state cannot do to an individual." In other words, freedom of religion by its legal nature is "freedom from the state," and it implies "a negative obligation of the state." It orders the state "non-doing." It articulates what the state cannot do. Hence the free exercise claim is in fact a demand and not a demand on the basis of which any individual could expect from the state any doing.

Accordingly all special rights, along with the aforementioned limitations, that is the right of an individual to learn his faith, the right to be a believer, the right to choose his or her viewpoint on the world , the right to choose a religious viewpoint on the world, the right of parents to educate their children in the spirit of their faith are demands stemming from the free exercise principle. The state is duty-bound to carefully protect those rights, but at the same time it is not duty-bound to organise their realisation. The only obligation of the state is to desist from preventing, hindering or disturbing the exercise of the aforementioned rights.

Those invested with the aforementioned rights have an exclusive right to exercise and attain them. Moreover the state would violate the non-establishment principle if it tried by any act to ensure or organise the manner of exercise of those rights. The state is not permitted to ensure the manner of realisation of, for example, the right of an individual to learn his faith or the right to have religious viewpoints on the world by organising classes of religious education both in state schools or elsewhere. The state is also banned from providing for the way of attainment of the right of an individual to be a believer by founding his or her church or financing construction of religious institutions.

Thus it seems that the problem of introduction of religious education in state schools cannot be settled by citing poorly understood constitutional principles, or by extensive, but wrong ,interpretation of provisions relating to the enforcement of human rights or by appeals to "democratic legitimacy." Legal regime of freedom of religion is too precise for that kind of "legal acrobatics."

Instead one should perhaps consider alternative forms, for example introducing elements of religious character into curricula. In those terms and in accordance with experiences of countries which had already faced similar problems, we would like to float the following proposals:

"Plan of the historic method" suggests introduction of a subject-matter "History and knowledge of religious communities" which could in an objective way present to pupils of state schools the emergence of the first religions, development of religious teachings, differences between them, influence of religion on formation of morals and other set of values in human communities, interaction between religion and other spiritual categories or provinces, for example literature, painting, philosophy, arts in general, etc. Due to its complexity this subject would be introduced only in secondary school curricula.

"Plan of incidental study of religion" would enable pupils or state schools to gain religious knowledge within supplementary curricula of the already existing secular subjects, for example, history, sociology, philosophy, literature, arts, music, etc, through studies of relations between religious teachings and these separate disciplines.

Finally, a resolution of the problem, which would fully meet a demand for organising and holding classes of religious education could be found in the provision of article 41, paragraph 1, of the Serbian Constitution, according to which all religious communities are free to found their religious schools.





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