Opposition curses the decision: Law on freedom of religion in Montenegro declared constitutional
After the Legislative Committee declared the draft law constitutional, DF MP Marina Jocic told MPs from the ruling opposition, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's - you don't respect even that, but remember there is someone above us all"
The Legislative Committee today supported the draft law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Legal Status of Religious Communities. Seven members of the committee from the ruling coalition voted in favor of the draft being in accordance with the Constitution, while two, from the opposition, opposed it.
Several hundred priests and nuns and monks of the Montenegrin-Littoral Metropolitanate and the Budimlja-Niksic Diocese opposed to the proposal gathered in front of the Assembly building this morning.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Zoran Pazin said at the session of the committee that the government's intention was to fulfill its constitutional obligations and to with the law guarantee equal rights to everyone in a civil Montenegro.
"By proposing the law on freedom of religion, the government is fulfilling its constitutional and program obligation to ensure equal rights and freedoms to all religious communities and believers in Montenegro, but also to those Montenegrin citizens who are not believers," said Pazin in his introductory address at the session of the Legislative Committee of the Assembly of Montenegro.
Pazin said that in Montenegro, as in other places with the rule of law, ownership of property can only be established by proof of ownership.
"Legal status can be acquired only by registration with a state body, while public cultural property can only be used in accordance with the law," the deputy prime minister stressed.
He assessed that any law that would allow any religious community to enjoy rights that no one else in Montenegro has would be unconstitutional.
"The government has no other intention but to fulfill its constitutional obligation to with this law, in a civil Montenegro, guarantee equal rights and equal effect of the law to all religious communities, to believers of all denominations, but also to those citizens who are not believers," stressed the Deputy PM Pazin.
He assessed that anyone who read the draft law could see that it doesn't contain any provision that places any religious community in a subordinate position, but that instead all provisions of the law are equally applicable to all.
"Also, this draft law doesn't prescribe ad hoc legal rules that specifically apply to religious communities, but introduces all religious communities equally into our legal order. Thus, already established legal rules that apply to other legal entities are related to the registration and records of religious communities that want the state to recognize them as a legal entity," said Pazin.
DF MP Milun Zogovic asked that the draft law be withdrawn from procedure.
"Montenegro does need a law, but one in an atmosphere of dialogue and respect," said Zogovic, adding that 41 members of the Assembly will voted differently from the wishes of 100,000 people in Montenegro.
"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's - you don't respect even that, but remember there is someone above us all," said DF MP Marina Jocic.
Liberal Party MP Andrija Popovic said he would support the draft because he believes it is in line with Montenegro's legislative system.
What's in the draft law on Freedom of Religion
The draft envisages that all religious communities must prove they owned church property before 1918, otherwise it will be confiscated.
Although the draft has caused great tensions in Montenegro, top state officials have said they will not withdraw it from parliamentary procedure.
Demands to withdraw the draft law were once again made during a SPC religious rally on Saturday in Niksic, attended by opposition leaders.