RUSSIA: High court acknowledges spiritual needs
Constitutional court confirms right of owners to provide their home for conducting worship services
By Mikhail Telekhov
Russia Religion News (14.11.2019) – https://bit.ly/2DbzGwU – Worship services, religious rituals, and ceremonies may be freely conducted in a residential building located on a parcel of land designated for private farming, with the permission of the owner, a RAPSI correspondent reports from the courtroom of the Russian Constitutional Court, where the pertinent order was announced.
Such a position, in the opinion of the Constitutional Court, is consistent with the purpose of housing, designed to satisfy not only the physical needs of citizens, but also their spiritual interests,
Adventists of the village of Veselyi
The complainant, a resident of Rostov oblast, Olga Glamozdinova, asked for verification of the consistency with the Russian Constitution of the second paragraph of article 42 of the Land Code of the RF and part 1 of article 88 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF, which establish the accountability of owners and nonowners for the use of land for other than the designated purpose.
The materials of the case show that Glamozinova is a parishioner of the Church of Christian Seventh-Day Adventists in the village of Veselyi, and as the owner of a residential building and parcel of land of a quarter acre in January 2017 she provided to the aforesaid church, by an agreement, free use of the property of her home for conducting worship services, rituals, and ceremonies for 4 hours a week. Glamodzinova’s address was ent4ered in the Uniform State Register of Legal Entities as the legal address of the religious organizations.
The complaint reports that in September 2017, the district department of the agency of Rosreestr for Rostov oblast held her administratively accountable and fined her 10 thousand rubles for use of the land for other than its designated purpose. And courts of two instances confirmed the legality of Rosreestr’s order.
In the complainant’s opinion, the challenged rules are inconsistent with articles 28, 35 (part 2) and 55 (part 3) of the Russian constitution, inasmuch as they violate her right to freely own and dispose of her property and also her right to freedom of conscience and religious confession.
Without alteration of housing
In the opinion of the Constitutional Court, a parcel of land for conducting personal subsidiary farming presupposes, among other things, placement of a residential building in which worship services, religious rituals, and ceremonies may be freely conducted, which is consistent with the designation of housing designed to satisfy not only physical needs of citizens but also their spiritual interests, including the spiritual needs of believers. At the same time, the rights and legal interests of other persons and the rules for the use of residential premises must be strictly observed by the believers.
“With the consent of the owner of housing, state registration of a religious organization at the address of the residential object of real estate is also possible. This has special significance for numerically small religious organizations that do not have their own buildings and premises and also the possibility of acquiring or renting them. Such a provision does not necessarily mean the transformation of the residential premises into administrative premises of a religious organization, and thus does not lead to the use of the land for other than its designated purposes,” the materials of the court say.
The rules being challenged are recognized to be consistent with the Russian constitution. The case of the complainant is subject to review. At the same time, the order indicates that law enforcement must proceed from the totality of factual circumstances in investigating allegations of the transformation of a residential building into a liturgical or administrative building of a religious organization. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 November 2019)