On May 21, 2021, during the plenary session of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the draft Law No. 4626 on “Military Chaplaincy Service” was adopted as a basis in the first reading by 299 votes. priests of their Church. This was reported by the Information and Education Department of the UOC.
The authors of the legislative initiative were the deputies of the “Golos”, “EU”, “Servant of the People” factions, and others. When developing the bill, representatives of various confessions of Ukraine were invited, except for representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Earlier, experts noted: “First of all, because of the confessional bias of the main initiator of the bill, People’s Deputy of Ukraine R. Kostenko, who stands on the position of the impossibility of admitting the clergy of the UOC to the spiritual guardianship of military personnel of the military formations of Ukraine – loyal to the UOC”.
Despite the fact that the website of the Verkhovna Rada, for the purposes of the bill, notes the multi-confessional nature of our state and speaks of “equality of representatives of all faiths <…> in meeting their religious needs”, and draft Law No. 4626 contains a number of discriminatory provisions regarding the faithful of the UOC.
In particular, Article 6 “Interfaith Councils on Military Chaplaincy” notes that the Interfaith Councils on Military Chaplaincy under the Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs of Ukraine include representatives from those churches and religious organizations whose clergy already hold the positions of military chaplains in the Armed Forces. Ukraine, the National Guard and the State Border Service.
Taking into account the prohibition of the clergy of the UOC to exercise pastoral care and, accordingly, the prohibition of them on the posts of military chaplains, these provisions automatically deprive the UOC and the right to participate in such interfaith councils, despite the fact that representatives of the UOC were members of the Council on Pastoral Care under the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine during the whole history of its existence.
According to religious experts, the bill “On the Service of the Military Priesthood” not only does not solve the problem of discriminatory deprivation of the faithful of the UOC – military personnel of the military formations of Ukraine of the right to pastoral care by the clergy of their Church, and therefore, ensuring the constitutional principle of equality of citizens regardless of religious beliefs, but on the contrary, it only deepens the problem.
That is why, as experts warn, the draft law No. 4626 adopted as a basis will increase tension in interfaith relations in society, lead to further incitement of interfaith confrontation and the formation of bias against the believers of the UOC.