WASHINGTON – Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chairman and Co-Chairman, respectively, of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) wrote Romanian President Traian Basescu today regarding the passage of a new religion law. The Law on Religious Freedom and Status of Religious Denominations passed the Romanian House of Deputies on Wednesday and is now before President Basescu for signature.
Concerned by the “serious shortcomings” in the legislation, the letter signed by both Senator Brownback and Rep. Smith “respectfully urges” President Basescu to “return the draft law to the parliament for revision.”
“If the Law on Religious Freedom and Status of Religious Denominations were to pass in its current form, it would give Romania the dubious distinction of having the most burdensome religious registration system in the entire 56-nation OSCE region,” concluded Senator Brownback and Rep. Smith in their letter. In addition, the letter conveys the Commissioners belief that the law is incompatible with Romania’s OSCE religious freedom commitments.
The bill passed the Romanian Senate passively in December 2005, without modification, despite more than 60 substantive amendments that were never considered. Once before the House of Deputies, the Judicial Committee and the Human Rights Committee reviewed the bill for almost a year but made no improvements, despite repeated intervention during the drafting stage by Helsinki Commission members and international organizations. The full House of Deputies approved the bill without substantive amendments on Wednesday.