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THE LEGAL NOTION OF “TRADITIONAL” RELIGIONS IN LITHUANIA AND ITS SOCIOPOLITICAL CONSEQUENCES

  • Egdūnas Račius (a1)

Abstract

Lithuania formally distinguishes between what it terms “traditional,” “state-recognized,” “registered,” and “unregistered” religions. Though constitutionally Lithuania is a secular state and all religions are declared equal vis-à-vis the state, religious communities recognized as “traditional” have, nonetheless, been favored by the state. They have been granted preferential treatment both in the legislation and extralegal handling by various state actors and institutions. At the same time, traditional religious communities are formally equal among themselves and vis-à-vis the state. However, the size of their membership puts them into two distinct camps. While the Catholic community constitutes 77 percent of the country's population, the remaining eight traditional religious communities together hardly make up 6 percent, of which 4 percent are Orthodox, with Lutherans, Calvinists, Greek Catholics, Old Believers, Judaists, Karaites, and Sunni Muslims making up the remaining numbers. This article focuses on one of the smaller traditional religious communities, Sunni Muslims, and through this example seeks to show looming complications arising from the current legal system for the governance of religion in Lithuania, which, as a country, starts inter alia being affected by the appearance of revivalist and other “nontraditional” forms of Islam on its territory. The article argues that with the changing makeup of the Lithuanian religious landscape—not related only to Islam—the current system of the governance of religion is not only outdated but also unsustainable and needs to be thoroughly overhauled to come more in line with the developing social reality.

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1 The term church used in the Constitution is to be understood as a generic term synonymous with “formalized religious hierarchy.”

2 Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania 1992, article 43, http://www3.lrs.lt/home/Konstitucija/Constitution.htm.

3 Račius, Egdūnas, Islam in Post-Communist Eastern Europe: Between Churchification and Securitization (Leiden: Brill, 2020), 125–36.

4 Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania, article 5, “Traditional Religious Communities and Associations of Lithuania” (No. I-1057/1995), https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAD/TAIS.385299?jfwid=16j6tpgu6w.

5 Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania, article 6. “Recognition of Other Religious Associations.”

6 Department of Statistics, Gyventojai pagal tautybę, gimtąją kalbą ir tikybą [Inhabitants by ethnicity, mother tongue and faith] (Vilnius: Statistics Lithuania, 2013), 5.

7 Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania, article 3, “Equality of People Regardless of their Religion.”

8 Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania, article 10, “Formalization of Legal Personality of Traditional Religious Communities and Associations,” and article 11, “Granting of Legal Personality to Other Religious Communities and Associations.”

9 Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania, article 14, “Educational, Charity and Benevolent Activities of Religious Communities, Associations and Centres.”

10 Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania June 13, 2000, Case No. 23/98, http://www.lrkt.lt/en/court-acts/search/170/ta1161/content (ruling on the compliance of Item 5 of Article 1, Paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article 10, Paragraph 1 of Article 15, Article 20, Item 2 of Article 21, Paragraph 2 of Article 32, Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of Article 34, Items 2 and 5 of Article 35, Item 2 of Article 37 and Items 2 and 3 of Article 38 of the Republic of Lithuania's Law on Education with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania).

11 Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania December 6, 2007, Case Nos. 10/95, 23/98, http://www.lrkt.lt/en/court-acts/search/170/ta1375/content (construing the provisions of a Constitutional Court ruling related with the status of the churches and religious organisations that are traditional in Lithuania).

12 Ruškytė, Ramutė, “Legal Aspects of Religious Freedom,” in Legal Aspects of Religious Freedom: International Conference, ed. Čepar, Drago and Ivanc, Blaž (Ljubljana: Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Religious Communities, 2008), 149–98, at 159.

13 Law on Religious Communities and Associations, article 6.

14 Law on Religious Communities and Associations, article 6.

15 Law on Religious Communities and Associations, article 6.

16 Ruškytė, “Legal Aspects of Religious Freedom,” 175.

17 Mindaugas Lankauskas, “Valstybės ir bažnyčios atskyrimo principas: lyginamieji aspektai ir teisinė padėtis Lietuvoje” [The principle of separation between state and church: comparative aspects and legal situation in Lithuania], Teisės problemos 63, no. 1 (2009): 88–119.

18 Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania (2007), Case Nos. 10/95, 23/98; also Gediminas Mesonis, “Kai kurie konstituciniai valstybės ir bažnyčios santykių aspektai” [Some aspects of the constitutional state–church relations], Konstitucinė jurisprudencija 10, no. 2 (2008): 110–33, at 117; Ruškytė, “Legal Aspects of Religious Freedom,” 173.

19 Law on Religious Communities and Associations, article 5.

20 Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania (2007), Case Nos. 10/95, 23/98.

21 Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania (2000), Case Nos. 23/98.

22 Mesonis, “Kai kurie konstituciniai valstybės ir bažnyčios santykių aspektai,” 119.

23 Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania (2007), Case Nos. 10/95, 23/98.

24 Ruškytė, “Legal Aspects of Religious Freedom,” 177.

25 Mesonis, “Kai kurie konstituciniai valstybės ir bažnyčios santykių aspektai,” 119.

26 Lankauskas, “Valstybės ir bažnyčios atskyrimo principas,” 109.

27 Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania (2007), Case Nos. 10/95, 23/98.

28 Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania (2007), Case Nos. 10/95, 23/98.

29 Donatas Glodenis, “Administrative and Financial Matters in the Area of Religious Freedom and Religious Communities: Case of Lithuania,” in Čepar and Ivanc, Legal Aspects of Religious Freedom, 392–408, at 402.

30 Mesonis, “Kai kurie konstituciniai valstybės ir bažnyčios santykių aspektai,” 124.

31 Mesonis, 124.

32 Mesonis, 122–23.

33 Mesonis, 126.

34 On the history of Islam in Lithuania, see Račius, Egdūnas, “Islam in Lithuania,” in Islam in the Nordic and Baltic Countries, ed. Larsson, Göran (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 116–32; Račius, Egdūnas, “Islam in Lithuania: Revival at the Expense of Survival?,” in Muslims in Poland and Eastern Europe. Widening the European Discourse on Islam, ed. Górak-Sosnowska, Katarzyna (Warsaw: University of Warsaw Press, 2011), 207–21.

35 Yuval-Davis, Nira, “Belonging and the Politics of Belonging,” Patterns of Prejudice 40, no. 3 (2006): 197214, at 205.

36 Yuval-Davis, “Belonging and the Politics of Belonging,” 97.

37 Law on Religious Communities and Associations, article 5.

38 Department of Statistics, Lithuanian 2011 Population Census in Brief (Vilnius: Statistics Lithuania, 2012), 20.

39 Department of Statistics, Gyventojai pagal tautybę, gimtąją kalbą ir tikybą, 14.

40 This claim is based on the author's personal communication with Lithuanian Tatars over the years.

41 Author's personal communication with Lithuanian Tatars over the years.

42 UK Office for National Statistics, Table CT0265_2011: Country of Birth by Year of Arrival by Religion–England and Wales (November 2014), http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160110200016/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/about-ons/business-transparency/freedom-of-information/what-can-i-request/published-ad-hoc-data/census/ethnicity--identity--language-and-religion--eilr-/index.html, accessed December 20, 2017 (data no longer available).

43 Law on Religious Communities and Associations, article 10.

44 Sitdykovas, Galimas, “Lietuvos musulmonų sunitų dvasinis centras atkurtas” [The spiritual center of the Lithuanian Sunni Muslims reestablished], Lietuvos Totoriai 18, no. 1 (1999): 1, 3, at 1.

45 Spiritual Center of the Lithuanian Sunni Muslims–Muftiate, Articles of the Spiritual Center of the Lithuanian Sunni Muslims–Muftiate, 1998 (on file with the author).

46 Račius, Egdūnas and Bairašauskaitė, Tamara, “Lithuania,” in Muslim Tatar Minorities in the Baltic Sea Region, ed. Svanberg, Ingvar and Westerlund, David (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 2145, at 33.

47 Stanisław Kryczyński, Tatarzy litewscy. Próba monografii historyczno-etnograficznej [Lithuanian Tatars. An attempt at historic-ethnographic monograph] (Warszawa: Wydanie Rady Centralnej Związku Kulturalno-Oświatowego Tatarów Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, 1938), 172–210, 281–308.

48 Račius, Egdūnas and Norvilaitė, Vaida, “Features of Salafism among Lithuanian Converts to Islam,” Nordic Journal of Religion and Society 27, no. 1 (2014): 3957, at 46.

49 Kryczyński, Tatarzy litewscy, 54; Bairašauskaitė, Tamara, Lietuvos totoriai XIX amžiuje [Lithuanian Tatars in the nineteenth century] (Vilnius: Mintis, 1996), 130–50.

50 Tamara Bairašauskaitė, “Musulmonų konfesinė bendruomenė nepriklausomoje Lietuvoje” [Muslim confessional community in independent Lithuania], Lietuvos istorijos metraštis 1991 (1992): 98–114.

51 Račius, Islam in Post-Communist Eastern Europe.

52 Taha Jabir al-Alwani, “Author's Introduction,” in Towards a Fiqh for Minorities: Some Basic Reflections (London: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2010), xiii–xxiii, at xvi; Sedgwick, Mark, “Is There a Church in Islam?,” ISIM Newsletter, no. 13 (2003): 4041.

53 Donatas Glodenis, “Administrative and Financial Matters in the Area of Religious Freedom and Religious Communities: Case of Lithuania,” in Čepar and Ivanc, Legal Aspects of Religious Freedom, 392–408, at 402.

54 Law on Religious Communities and Associations, article 5.

55 Law on Religious Communities and Associations, article 5.

56 Law on Religious Communities and Associations, article 5.

57 Račius, Egdūnas, Muslims in Eastern Europe (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), 6365, 74–75, 96–97, 111–12, 138; Račius, Islam in Post-Communist Eastern Europe.

Keywords

THE LEGAL NOTION OF “TRADITIONAL” RELIGIONS IN LITHUANIA AND ITS SOCIOPOLITICAL CONSEQUENCES

  • Egdūnas Račius (a1)

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