The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law
Volume 6, Issue 1, September 2003
By Melinda R. Porter*
Belarus declared independence and supremacy of Belarusian law over the Soviet Constitution on August 25, 1991. In 1994, Belarus passed its own Constitution, which provided for freedom of religion and equality among religious faiths.  In 1996, the Constitution was amended in an unlawful referendum, modifying the article on religious freedom to allow for favoritism among religious denominations. In 1992, Belarus passed the law “On the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations,” which was amended several times, most recently in 1999. A series of presidential decrees, unpublished instructions, and orders by officials have been issued to clarify the law, which has led to a body of contradictory secret law, unavailable to the general public or to religious groups.
Belarus began considering a new law on religion in 2002. On June 27, 2002, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus gave its approval to the Law on the Introduction of Changes and Amendments to the  Law of the Republic of Belarus On Religious Freedom and Religious Organizations (the “2002 Law on Religion” or the “Law”). Despite protest by international observers of religious and human rights, the 2002 Law on Religion was approved by the Council of the Republic, signed by President Alexander Lukashenko on October 31, 2002, and took effect in November 2002.
The current government, headed by President Lukashenko, openly favors the Russian Orthodox Church, the majority religion in Belarus, to the detriment of other denominations and religions. The legal restrictions codified in the 2002 Law on Religion follow the trend of favoring the Russian Orthodox Church.
The state institution regulating religious matters, founded in 1997 as the State Committee on Religious and National Affairs, was reconstituted in September 2001 as the Committee of Religious and Nationalities Affairs of the Council of Ministers (“CRNA”). The 2002 Law on Religion forms a Republican Body of State Governance on Religious Affairs (“Governing Body”), which has authority for registering religious organizations, policing their activities, and penalizing those that violate the rights of religious adherents or organizations. This new Governing Body appears to replace the CRNA, but this change is not clear.
This article describes the international standards against which the 2002 Law on Religion should be judged. The detailed discussion of the 2002 Law on Religion summarizes the key points of the law, such as the complex and unfair registration requirements, the censorship of religious material, the draconian penalty and liquidation provisions, and the intrusion on a religious entity’s right to choose its own leaders. These provisions fail to meet the international standards that Belarus has accepted.
A. International standards
The Constitution of Belarus includes a commitment to “universally recognized principles of international law” that subordinates the laws of Belarus to binding international laws, but also prohibits entering into international agreements that are contrary to the existing Constitution. Thus, Belarusian law should conform to key international standards, including (i) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”), with particular reference to Article 18 on freedom of religion or belief; (ii) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), with particular reference to Article 18 (also dealing with freedom of religion or belief), as this has been construed by the U.N. Human Rights Committee’s General Comment 22(48); (iii) the Concluding Document of the Vienna Meeting of Representatives of the Participating States of the Conference on Security and Cooperation I Europe adopted January 17, 1989, (Vienna Concluding Document”); and (iv) the various commitments that have been made by the Participating States of the OSCE in connection with freedom of religion or belief. In addition, while Belarus has not ratified the European Convention, Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Basic Freedoms (“ECHR”) and Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (“FREU”) are clearly persuasive authority.
Belarus ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) on November 12, 1973, and the Optional Protocol on ICCPR on September 30, 1992. Belarus issued neither any declarations nor any reservations with respect to article 18. As a signatory to ICCPR, Belarus has committed to protect international norms of freedom of conscience and religious expression, including “freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief . . . and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest . . . religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching” ; freedom from “coercion which would impair . . . [the] freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief” ; and “respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.” This international agreement permits Belarus to limit these freedoms only under carefully restricted circumstances “necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”
II. Discussion of the 2002 Law on Religion
The stated aims of the 2002 Law on Religion are to ensure and guarantee the right of everyone to freedom of conscience and religious freedom; social justice, equality, defense of rights and interests irrespective of one’s attitude to religion and religious membership; and freedom of religious associations. These laudable goals are hindered by several harsh provisions, which overshadow the rights granted in the 2002 Law on Religion:
- All religious organizations are subject to obligatory state registration; all existing religious organizations must re-register within two years. A religious denomination must have been active in Belarus for at least twenty years before it is able to obtain religious association status; a newer denomination is subject to state investigation before registration and may only register as a religious community, not as a religious association.
- All imported religious literature is subject to prior approval (censorship) by the Governing Body.
- Registered religious organizations may be liquidated by the court if they commit a wide range of offenses. Because a religious organization’s assets are frozen during the course of the court proceeding, it would be very difficult to mount an effective defense to the charges.
- Leaders of a religious organization must be a citizen of Belarus. A religious entity must attain association status, i.e., have been present in the country for at least twenty years, before it can open an educational institution in Belarus to train clerical leadership.
A. Religious organizations, communities, and associations
The rights and restrictions in the 2002 Law on Religion hinge on the definitions of various types of religious entities:
- Religious organization is the broadest term in the law. It includes both religious communities and religious associations, as well as cloisters, monastic communities, congregations, religious missions and societies, and religious schools.
- A religious community is a voluntary association of at least twenty adult citizens of Belarus who follow the same creed.
- A religious association is a combination of at least 10 religious communities of the same creed that have been carrying out their activities in Belarus for at least twenty years. Only a religious association can establish cloisters, monastic communities, congregations, charitable religious missions and communities, and religious schools. Each of these religious establishments must also be registered with the state.
- A republican religious association is a religious association formed by religious communities that are active in most oblasts of Belarus. A republican religious association can create local religious associations for ease of administration.
A religious organization has the status of a legal entity once it is registered. The various religious entities have the following rights and restrictions under the 2002 Law on Religion:
A religious organization may:
- Participate in the social life and use the state mass media as provided in applicable legislation (art. 8 and art. 27).
- Create groups and Sunday schools for the religious education of children and adults (art. 9).
- Appeal to court if an application for registration is denied (art. 21).
- Conduct worship services, rituals, and ceremonies in religious buildings and other places provided to religious organizations for these purposes (art. 25).
- Conduct worship services, rituals, and ceremonies in residences on the condition that rules of public order are observed (art. 25).
- Conduct worship services, rituals, and ceremonies in medical institutions, pretrial detention centers, and places of confinement upon the request of citizens kept there, in a location provided by the administration for this purpose (art. 25).
- Conduct worship services, rituals, and ceremonies in the open air or in premises not specifically dedicated for religious use only after receiving permission from the head of the local executive or administrative body (art. 25).
- Produce, obtain, export, import, and distribute religious literature, other printed, audio, and video productions, as well as other articles with religious purposes in the order established by the general legislation of Belarus (art. 26).
§ Note that literature and audio and video productions are subject to prior censorship by the state if they are imported or if they will be distributed.
§ Note that distribution of literature and other items of religious content can be done only on the premises dedicated to the use of a religious organization or in places designated by local executive and administrative bodies.
- Establish business organizations to issue religious literature and to manufacture articles with religious purposes (art. 26).
- Carry out charitable activities in the order established by the general legislation of Belarus (art. 27).
- Create religious schools for training priests and church staff (art. 28).
- Establish and maintain international contacts in order to conduct pilgrimages, participate in meetings and other events, receive religious education, and invite foreigners for these purposes (art. 29).
- Own and use property (art. 30 and art. 31).
A religious organization may not:
- Be made responsible for any state functions or receive state financing (art. 8).
- Participate in activities of political parties or other public associations pursuing political ends, or render financial or other support to them (art. 8).
In addition to the rights given to all religious organizations, a religious association may:
- Establish cloisters and monastic communities, congregations, charitable religious missions and communities, and religious schools (art 15).
- Invite foreign citizens to carry out religious activities in proper religious associations. A foreign citizens may stay for one year, although this term may be lengthened or shortened (art. 29).
- Have the right to the day-to-day management of property transferred to it (art. 30).
In sum, many of the same rights and restrictions are imposed on any type of registered religious organization. However, the additional rights given to a religious association relegate a religious community to second-class status. A religious community is a smaller and newer denomination than an entity eligible for association status. To deny it the chance to bring in foreign citizens and to open institutions to train leaders will make meeting the needs of the religious community’s members extremely difficult. While some sort of differentiation between types of religious entities is not unheard of in Europe, the Vienna Concluding Document declares that its participating states should grant sufficient legal status to believers to carry out their religious activities. The 2002 Law on Religion grants only a hobbled legal status to religious communities.
A religious denomination must be able to register with the Governing Body before it can obtain the rights discussed in Section II.A. Registration applications of newer religious denominations can be subjected to scrutiny and arbitrarily denied. While all religions and creeds are equal before the law, the relationship between the state and religious organizations may be affected by the influence that a religious organization has had on the spiritual, cultural, and state traditions of the Belarusian people. This statement sets the stage for the Law to favor religious organizations that have significant history in Belarus, to the detriment of newer or less popular religions.
The 2002 Law on Religion makes registration obligatory for all religious organizations, regardless of their status or history in Belarus. However, registration is easier for an established religious tradition, whether it is registering a religious community, a religious association, or a republican religious association, because there is no substantive review of an established religion’s teachings by the Governing Body.
The Law does not make it sufficiently clear that groups are free to exercise their religion without seeking juridical status. If state approval is necessary before religious activities can be carried out, then the Law imposes an impermissible restriction on groups that wish to practice their faith but have not yet obtained legal entity status. Because of the importance of registration, the process with all its complexities is described in detail, first for religious communities and then for the larger religious associations.
1. Registration of a religious community
The application for registration of a religious community must contain certain information, such as the names of the citizens of Belarus who are founding the community, their identifying information, the statutes of the religious community, the minutes of the founding meeting, and confirmation of the community’s right to be located at the address listed in its statutes. These requirements are fairly basic. The requirement to give an address may present a practical obstacle, because a new religious entity may not be able to present proof of its right to a specific location if juridical status is necessary to sign a lease, and it cannot obtain juridical status until it has registered, which includes the requirement to show a right to occupy a location.
An additional requirement for registration applies if the religious community is practicing a faith that, according to the Governing Body, is unknown in Belarus. The unknown religious community must attach a description of its origins and activities, the foundations of its belief, its attitude toward marriage, family, education, fulfillment of state duties, and receiving medical assistance.
The registration application of a religious community passes through two or three levels of government review, depending on whether it is a known or unknown religious denomination. Every religious community files its application for registration with the city, regional executive committee, or other local administration of the territory where it plans to carry out activities. This local government entity has one month to consider the application and forward it together with its conclusions to the oblast or Minsk city executive committee. This first level of government review only makes recommendations; it cannot by itself grant or deny registration.
If the religious community is already known in Belarus, at this second level of government review, the oblast or Minsk city executive committee decides to register the religious community or deny registration and informs the applicant religious community of its decision. The Law provides no criteria for granting or denying registration. The Governing Body is responsible for ensuring that all government agencies follow the Law and presumably would issue regulatory guidelines to ensure that practices across Minsk are consistent. Otherwise, local governmental discretion could result in discrimination or arbitrary decisions.
If the religious community is practicing an unknown faith, according to the Governing Body, then the oblast or Minsk city executive committee forwards the application to the Governing Body for religious expert examination, which can take up to six months. This third level of government review entails a substantive review of the unknown religious community’s origins, beliefs, and practices. The Governing Body can deny registration based on the religious expert’s findings. No guidelines in the Law set forth the standard for this review or allow the applicant religious community to participate in the review process. The procedures followed by the religious expert are established solely by the Governing Body. The religious community does need to be informed of the reasons for a denial of registration.
This substantive review of the doctrines and practices of a religion is troubling. The Law does not give any standards that would prevent the religious expert from evaluating the religion’s plausibility, or that would prevent the outcome from depending on whether the expert personally agrees with the teachings. This expert examination constitutes an impermissible state interference in religious belief and internal religious affairs. Because this review applies only to “unknown” religions, the disadvantages will be disproportionately felt by newer religions. This contradicts the United Nations Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 22(48), Article 18 at Paragraph 2, which states that “the Committee . . . views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reasons, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community.”
Any review of a religion’s teachings or practices should be limited to exploring whether the religious group constitutes a threat to the constitutional order of the state, and whether denial or registration can be justified on the grounds specified in the limitation clauses of international instruments. Surprisingly, the language in the international instruments allowing a government to restrict religious activity if necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or moral or fundamental rights and freedoms of others is not present in the 2002 Law on Religion, although a similar concept is mentioned in Article 39 among a list of violations of the Law.
While any refusal of registration may be appealed to court, there is no guarantee that the members of the applicant religious community can practice their faith while the matter is pending. Also, a religious community without juridical status may find it difficult or impossible to hire legal counsel or other assistance in the court appeal.
2. Registration of religious associations and other religious organizations
Registration applications from religious associations, as well as religious organizations such as cloisters, monastic communities, congregations, charitable religious missions and communities, and religious schools, are handled directly by the Governing Body. The registration application consists of the religious association’s statutes, minutes of the founding meeting, identifying information of the leaders, and documents confirming the religious association’s right to be located at the address in the statutes.
A religious association is made up of at least ten religious communities of the same denomination that have been active in Belarus for at least twenty years. Activities are carried out through the religious community’s administrative bodies. This requirement effectively eliminates most religions from eligibility for association status, as 1983 was a time of religious oppression. The sentence that states that activities are carried out through administrative bodies suggests that the Law intends to allow only religions that were officially functioning the chance to register as associations. A religious faith that had believers but no administrative body in Belarus in 1983 has not carried out its activities for the requisite twenty years. Also, the twenty-year time limit does not begin to run until a religious community has a functioning administrative body. For unknown religious communities that are denied registration, this day may never come.
This twenty-year requirement favors the long-established churches that were present in Belarus when it was part of the Soviet Union. While objectionable by international standards, the provision is consistent with the statement in the 2002 Law on Religion and the 1996 Belarus Constitution that relations between church and state should take into account the influence the religion has had on the spiritual, cultural, and state traditions of the Belarusian people.
If religious communities are carrying out activities in most oblasts of Belarus, they may combine to register a republican religious association. The only additional right granted to a republican religious association is the right to establish local religious associations, apparently for administrative convenience. An ordinary religious association cannot create a sister religious association. Instead, ten more communities would have to meet the twenty-year rule and combine to create a new local religious association. A local religious association would spread very slowly and would have difficulty in meeting the needs of believers in oblasts where it has not traditionally functioned.
The Law makes these registration requirements and restrictions retroactive. Every religious organization whose statutes were already registered must re-register within two years after the date that the Law came into effect, or by November 2004.
Religious organizations can produce, obtain, export, import, and distribute religious literature, other printed, audio, and video productions, as well as other articles with religious purpose in the order established by the legislation of Belarus. However, these items can be imported or distributed only after the state religious expert has examined them. No standards govern this examination. This examination is apparently intended to censor any material that the government-appointed expert dislikes. There is no method by which the religious organization could challenge a censorship order.
This sort of censorship violates freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of his choice.” By intentionally withholding certain newer or less popular religious ideas from the general public, the Law infringes these basic rights. These restrictions also violate the right to “express and spread beliefs connected with [one’s] attitude towards religion” given in the Belarus Constitution. Further, the Vienna Concluding Document requires its participating states to “respect the right of individual believers and communities of believers to acquire, possess, and use sacred books, religious publications in the language of their choice and other articles and materials related to the practice of religion or belief.”
D. Penalties and Liquidation
If a religious organization violates the legislation of Belarus or carries out activities that conflict with its own statutes, the office that registered the religious organization issues a written warning within three days of the violation. While every legal entity should obey the laws, this provision should not be an excuse for the Governing Body to impose greater oversight on religious organizations than on other legal entities. The Governing Body would also need to probe the internal operations of a religious organization in order to discover a violation of the organization’s own charter.
If the violations are not corrected, or the offending activity is repeated within one year, then the office that registered the religious organization can appeal to court for the liquidation of the religious organization. The registering office can suspend activities of the religious organization until a court has decided on liquidation.
Suspending the activities of a religious organization means that religious and business activities cease. The organization cannot found legal entities, originate communications over the mass media, or spend money beyond obligatory payments arising out of preexisting commitments. Suspension means that a religious organization cannot use its assets to pay a lawyer to help defend it against liquidation. The members of the religious organization would likely be hindered in practicing their religion during the suspension. Suspension lasts until the court decides to reject the liquidation request. Given the difficulties and uncertain time limit involved, a suspension order may lead to the disintegration of a religious organization even without a court-ordered liquidation.
The 2002 Law on Religion lists several activities that are considered a violation of the Law, including :
- establishing a religious organization or carrying out religious activity against the sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus, its constitutional system and civil peace, or connected with violating the rights and freedoms of citizens, such as preventing citizens from fulfilling their state, public, or family duties or interfering with their health and morality;
- establishing religious organizations in state bodies and institutions, military units, or educational institutions;
- involving juveniles in religious organizations, or teaching religion to juveniles against the will and without an agreement of their parents or guardian;
- desecrating articles respected by religion;
- giving away the secrets of the confessional; and
- creating religious enmity or discord or insulting citizens due to their religious beliefs
Several of the listed actions appear to be reasonable restrictions, as long as they are interpreted fairly. Unfortunately, the standards are written so vaguely that a broad interpretation could reach much religious activity. For example, a denomination that opposes war under all circumstances would produce conscientious objectors who would not want to fulfill the state duty of serving in the military. International standards encourage governments to make provisions for conscientious objectors. Also, a strict interpretation of the reference to interfering with a citizen’s health might affect religions that teach fasting or refusal of blood transfusions.
Violations lead to penalties set forth in the law. The liquidation procedure has already been described. There does not appear to be any de minimis exception to the rules. Even the smallest infraction, if repeated twice in a year, could result in the suspension of activity and eventual liquidation of a religious organization. Given the vagueness of the list of violations, and the fact that many other possible violations are not listed at all, a religious organization will have a difficult time making sure it is in full compliance.
E. Leadership and Education
Only a citizen of Belarus can head a religious organization. Again, this provision favors religions that are well-established in Belarus, while potentially crippling newer denominations. Without being able to appoint a foreigner to head a religious organization, a newer religious community may be unable to find qualified leadership. This also infringes on a religious organization’s right to “select, appoint and replace [its] personnel in accordance with [its] respective requirements and standards.”
The restriction on inviting a foreign citizen to head a religious organization becomes even more damaging because of the religious community’s inability to found religious schools to train clergy. Only a religious association can establish cloisters, monastic communities, congregations, charitable religious missions and communities, and religious schools. Religious associations are entitled to invite foreign citizens to carry out religious activities, while the parallel right for religious communities is less clear. Regardless, foreign religious workers often have difficulty procuring visas even with an invitation from a registered denomination.
Establishing cloisters, monastic communities, congregations, charitable religious missions and communities, and religious schools may be necessary for a faith to carry out its full range of religious activity. Most important, a religious denomination will need to establish a way to train leaders in Belarus if it is to satisfy the requirement that its leaders be citizens of Belarus. This twenty-year waiting period before a religious community can seek the status that would allow it to establish these religious organizations impermissibly infringes on the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Constitution of Belarus.
F. Exclusion of religion from public life
Throughout the Law, religion is restricted, minimalized, and marginalized. Religious literature can only be distributed on religious premises; religious organizations are banned in government institutions of all sorts; and religion in the military is handled under military legislation rather than being recognized as a right of the members of the military. The influence of religion is expressly excluded from educational institutions of all types, suggesting that a child in a school dormitory could not even pray privately.
Religious organizations are not allowed to interfere in state functions. While this could be interpreted as a valid separation of religious and governmental spheres, in the context of the history of Belarus, it represents a further marginalization of religion. Belarus still retains remnants of the Soviet model of government, in which the government provided all necessary social services. In countries with strong religious traditions, religious organizations operate orphanages, hospitals, schools, and rehabilitation centers. If these activities are seen as the sole province of the government in Belarus, religious organizations will be unable to participate. This outcome is regrettable, as it would ease the burden on the government if religious organizations were able to participate in treating and solving social problems.
The 2002 Law on Religion is a step backwards for the Republic of Belarus. The twenty-year requirement for registration of an upper-tier religious association that can carry out a full range of religious activity infringes upon a religious organization’s right to a legal status that will allow its followers to exercise their religious beliefs. The same is true of the standardless substantive review of a newer religious community’s origins and beliefs. The imposition of government censorship endangers Belarus’s hard-won freedom of the press and freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion.
The 2002 Law on Religion seems more concerned with protecting the citizens of Belarus from religion than with welcoming religious beliefs as an integral part of individual identity and one of the most important human rights.
* Melinda R. Porter is a Research Associate of the BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies and a practicing attorney with the law firm of Kirton & McConkie in Salt Lake City, Utah.
 1994 Belarus Const. § I, art. 16. (“All religions and faiths shall be equal before the law. The establishment of any privileges or restrictions with regard to a particular religion or faith in relation to others shall not be permitted. The activities of denominational organizations, their bodies and representatives, that are directed against the sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus, its constitutional system and civic harmony, or involve a violation of civil rights and liberties, shall be prohibited. Relations between the State and religious denominations shall be governed by the law.”)
 1996 Belarus Const. § I, art. 16. (“Religions and faiths shall be equal before the law. Relations between the State and religious organizations shall be regulated by the law with regard to their influence on the formation of the spiritual, cultural and state traditions of the Belarusian people. The activities of confessional organizations, their bodies and representatives, that are directed against the sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus, its constitutional system and civic harmony, or involve a violation of civil rights and liberties of its citizens as well as impeding the execution of state, public and family duties by its citizens or are detrimental to their health and morality shall be prohibited.”) The Constitution was amended in an unlawful referendum in November 1996 by President Alexander Lukashenko. Many countries have refused to recognize the 1996 Constitution.
 See Belarus Accused of Circumventing Religion Law, Russia Intercessory Prayer Network, April 4, 2000
 See Through Orthodoxy We’ll Strike a Blow to Worldliness and Misconduct – Belarus Passes New Law on Religion, 54 The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press No. 27 (2002) at 18 (condensing the article by Anatoly Nezvanov, published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 2, 2002 at p.6).
 According to a 1998 opinion poll, less than half the population of Belarus believes in God. The Committee of Religious and Nationalities Affairs reports that approximately 80 percent of these believers belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Most of the remaining 20 percent belong to the Roman Catholic Church. Jews and Protestants make up the third and fourth largest religious groups. See 2002 U.S. Dept. of State International Religious Freedom Report on Belarus, available through <http://www.state.gov>.
 1994 Belarus Const. art. 8 (“(1) The Republic of Belarus shall recognize the supremacy of the universally acknowledged principles of international law and ensure that its laws comply with such principles. (2) The conclusion of international agreements that are contrary to the Constitution shall not be permitted.”). The 1996 Belarus Constitution retains this text, but adds: “The Republic of Belarus in conformity with principles of international law may on a voluntary basis enter interstate formations and withdraw from them.”
 U.N. Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 22 (48), adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Committee on 20 July 1993, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev. 1/Add.4 (1993), reprinted in U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 35 (1994).
 OSCE Human Dimension Commitments: A Reference Guide 39-42 ( Warsaw: ODIHR, 2001)
 Belarus is neither a signatory to the European Convention nor to any of its thirteen additional protocols. For a list of signatories
 See United Nations Treaty Collection, Declarations and Reservations, Feb. 5, 2002. Upon ratification, Belarus made one declaration regarding paragraph 1 of Article 48 (limiting signatory status to members and invitees of existing international organizations), but this declaration was later withdrawn. See United Nations, Reservations, declarations, notifications and objections relating to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocols thereto, August 24, 1994.
 ICCPR, art. 18 (1).
 Id., art. 18(2).
 Id., art. 18(4).
 Id., art. 18(3).
 2002 Law on Religion at Article 1 (taken from an unofficial translation provided by CESNUR.
 See 2002 Law on Religion, art. 13.
 Id., art. 14.
 Id., art. 15.
 See 2002 Law on Religion, art. 16.
 See Principle 16(c) of the Vienna Concluding Document. “[P]articipating States will . . . grant upon their request to communities of believers, practicing or prepared to practice their faith within the constitutional framework of their states, recognition of the status provided for them in their respective countries.
 Id., art. 6.
 Id., art. 16.
 See id.
 See id.
 See id., art. 17.
 See id., art. 11.
 This classification as an “unknown” religion is already biased against newer religious denominations. It is made even more objectionable by the lack of a definition. The Governing Body is apparently able to decide which religions are known and which are unknown. There is nothing in the law about length of time the religion has been operating in Belarus or the number of followers. This provision is an invitation for the Governing Body to choose less popular religions for additional invasive scrutiny.
 See 2002 Law on Religion, art. 17.
 See id., art. 21.
 See id., art. 22.
 See, e.g., ICCPR, art. 18(1) which allows signatories to limit religious freedom if necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
 See 2002 Law on Religion, art. 21.
 See id., arts. 16 and 18.
 See id., art. 18.
 See id., art. 15.
 See id., art. 6.
 1996 Belarus Const., § I, art. 16.
 See 2002 Law on Religion, art. 15.
 See id., art. 43.
 See id., art. 26.
 ICCPR, art. 19(2).
 Belarus Const. § II, art. 31.
 Vienna Concluding Document at Paragraph 16(i).
 See 2002 Law on Religion, art. 37.
 See id.
 See id., art. 38.
 See id., art. 39.
 See U.N. Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 22(48), infra note 8, at paragraph 11.
 See 2002 Law on Religion, art. 39.
 See id., art. 13.
 Vienna Concluding Document at Paragraph 16(d).
 See 2002 Law on Religion, art. 15.
 See id., art. 29.
 Belarus Const. § II, art. 31. (“Everyone shall have the right independently to determine his attitude towards religion, to profess any religion individually or jointly with others, or to profess none at all, to express and spread beliefs connected with his attitude towards religion, and to participate in the performance of acts of worship and religious rituals and rites.”)
 See 2002 Law on Religion, art. 8.