Modern church-state interaction in Ukraine: rethinking the constitutional basis

Keywords: church-state relations, church-state interaction, freedom of religion, church-state separation

Abstract

Although the constitutional principle of church-state separation presupposes the formation of a separation model in Ukraine, there have been significant transformations in this area over the last thirty years. These changes are especially noticeable in comparison with the experience of the Soviet totalitarian regime, which also proclaimed church-state separation, in particular in the Decree 1918. The formation of modern relations between state and church was influenced by the rapid extension of the network of religious organizations after the restoration of state independence of Ukraine in 1991, the establishment of religious pluralism and the principle of equality of all religions before the law, the development of inter-faith dialogue and church-state interaction. The current model cannot be called purely separation one since the «wall» between state and church is inconspicuous. Instead, church-state relations in Ukraine are better characterized by an accommodationist regime with the elements of cooperation. An example of this is agreements on the introduction of chaplaincy in the army, prisons, hospitals, signed by governmental structures with various churches. In addition, the government of Ukraine indirectly supports the spiritual and charitable activities of religious organizations, providing them with a favorable tax regime and reducing the cost of utilities.

However, these new church-state relations from time to time raise discussions in Ukrainian society and objections by some political and public figures about the expediency of the church’s involvement in public life and its partnerships with government in various social spheres. Some of them are appealing to Article 35 (3) of the Constitution of Ukraine, promoting the restoration of the model of absolute separation between state and church similar to the one built by the totalitarian Soviet regime. It ignores the multifaceted approaches to building church-state relations that are used in developed democratic countries of Europe, where in addition to the separation model, cooperative forms of relations are much more commonly used.

The contradiction that exists between the provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine and the new type of relations, enshrined in the legislation and bilateral agreements between governmental structures and religious organizations, leads to legal uncertainty and creates the basis for social contradictions, misunderstandings, attempts to degrade modern church-state relations in Ukraine to the Soviet model.

This article argues that the Parliament of Ukraine has to extend Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine on church-state separation by additional provisions on the possibility of church to participate in public life and interact with state on a partnership basis in order to bring the Constitution into line with the modern state-church relations in Ukraine, which has already been implemented at a practical level.

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How to Cite
Vasin, M. (1). Modern church-state interaction in Ukraine: rethinking the constitutional basis. Law Review of Kyiv University of Law, (3), 80-87. https://doi.org/10.36695/2219-5521.3.2019.13
Section
Constitutional law. Municipal law