Belarusian laws, policies restrict religious freedom, US report says

2013 2013-05-22T17:09:24+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en

The Belarusian constitution guarantees religious freedom, but other laws and policies restrict it, according to the International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 released by the US Department of State.

The report was introduced by Secretary of State John Kerry on May 20.

The report says that the trend in the government’s respect for religious freedom did not change significantly in 2012. "The government selectively and arbitrarily targeted religious groups, which led to self-censorship among many members. The government used provisions of the religion law to hinder or prevent activities of groups other than the Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC). The law restricts the ability of religious groups to provide religious education and to import freely and distribute religious literature," says the report.

The Department of State accuses the government of harassing members of certain religious groups, "especially those the government regarded as bearers of foreign cultural influence or as having a political agenda." "Foreign missionaries, clergy, and humanitarian workers affiliated with Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church faced numerous obstacles, including deportation and visa refusal or cancellation," the report says.

According to the Department of State, there were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, with most involving religious sites, buildings, and memorials.

The report says that many religious groups continued to experience problems renting, purchasing, or registering properties to establish places of worship.

The US embassy continued to promote religious freedom, the report notes. US embassy staff are said to have maintained regular contact with representatives of religious groups, attended events hosted by religious groups, visited repressed churches, acted against incidents of anti-Semitism, and monitored and followed up on cases of religious.

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