Romanian Seventh-day Adventists joined other religious communities and human rights groups this week in raising concern over a controversial Religion Law whisked unpublished and largely un-discussed by legislators through both houses of Romania’s parliament last week. Its passage violated national parliamentary procedure in the process, Forum 18 News Service from Norway reports.
Lawmakers say Romania’s imminent membership in the European Union explains the apparent rush and secrecy surrounding the law’s passage, the same report indicated. More than its approval process, Adventists are concerned by the possible impact the law could have on religious freedom and religious expression in the country.
While ANN sources say the law at first glance appears to be a positive development because it affirms the autonomy of all “legal denominations,” they question its impact on religious freedom.
Although Romania does not purport an official state religion, the Romanian Orthodox Church has long dominated the country’s religious scene. Teodor Hutanu, president of the Romanian Adventist church, calls the Religion Law a “big step” for Romania because it acts as an equalizer among religions.
However, the conditions by which the government deems a denomination “legal,” worry some in Romania. “The major problem, from an Adventist perspective,” says Hutanu, “is related to the process of ‘graduating’ a religious association based on different levels of [governmental] recognition [until it is] a fully recognized denomination.”
With that recognition might come favors, Hutanu and others fear. Not to mention that the Religion Law, he says, leaves loopholes for potential discrimination based on how long a religious group has existed and how many members it has.
Also of concern are the law’s stipulations requiring parochial schools to teach a specific religious curriculum and a section that may cramp religious expression by limiting some religious symbols.
With sufficient revision, however, Hutanu believes the Religion Law will prove beneficial to Romanians. Adventists in Romania “will surely be involved in negotiations” proposing amendments to the law “in order to prevent any limitations to the liberty of [religious] expression,” he assures.