LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 25, No.1 - Spring 1979
Editor of this issue: V. Stanley Vardys
Copyright © 1979 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
CURRENT CONSTITUTIONAL AND FACTUAL CONDITION OF RELIGION IN LITHUANIA
As Reflected in Official and Samizdat Documents
In recent years Soviet authorities have redrafted legislation concerning religious activities. In 1975, the Russian republic reworded its old, 1929, statute on religious associations. The Russian model was followed by other republics. Lithuania adopted a new statute in 1976. Since union republics have to follow nationally established legislative principles this requirement now has been formally incorporated into the new Soviet constitution the Lithuanian, Russian and other republic statutes on religion differ from each other only in very minor details. The other major reformulation of the rights of religion occurred in the new, Brezhnev constitution adopted on October 7, 1977, and in new union republic constitutions promulgated in 1978.
How did these changes affect the position of religion in Lithuania? An answer is attempted with the help of here translated official and samizdat documents.
Petition by the Lithuanian bishops (Document I) shows that the constitutional Soviet doctrine on religion has not changed; if anything, it has become stricter. The new Constitution continues the principle of an asymmetric allocation of rights and freedoms to believers and to unbelievers. Art. 52 of the new Constitution recognizes to religious groups only the right of the performance of religious rites. This freedom is equated to the right of conducting atheistic propaganda. Thus, while atheism can be propagated, communication of religious views is excluded from constitutional protection. As the bishops further indicate, in strictly formal terms, religious groups are exempted from constitutional protection against discrimination that is secured by Art. 36 on racial or nationality grounds. This exemption precludes a legal recognition of churches as legitimate members of Soviet society. The Stalin constitution of 1936 had left this question open.
As the bishops themselves explain it, their letter was written in response to requests made by the clergy and the believers. A large number of clergymen a total of 271 from three dioceses including the deposed and exiled Bishop V. Sladkevičius separately wrote to Leonid I. Brezhnev, chairman of the Constitutional Commission. The usually to the government compliant church administrators in effect summarized the contents of these other petitions. Thus this letter can be regarded as representing the views of all of Lithuania's clerics irrespective of their attitudes on how submissive the Church should be to the existing government limitations of religious activities. In other words, Lithuania's priests are not reconciled to the idea of mere freedom to perform religious ceremonies. They want the right to teach, to learn, to inform and to receive information. The bishops are hopeful that their claims can be reconciled with the government's insistence on totally controlling all religious activities.
It is, finally, important to emphasize that the bishops have suggested a revision of Art. 52 concerning freedom of speech and communications. Their rewriting of it would bring the meaning of freedom of speech closer to the meaning it has in the West.
Needless to say, Brezhnev did not accept any of their suggestions (Documents II, III).
The same old legal philosophy is implemented in the 1976 Lithuanian law on religious associations (Document V). This statute defines the status of religious rights in 1976. As a document it is not any more liberal than the legislation it replaced. It clearly shows that the position of religious groups is extra-legal they have no rights of legal persons and that the law insists on a continued hermetic isolation of religion from society. The Criminal Code of the Lithuanian republic (resp. of other republics) provides punishment for these specifically stated infringements of the isolation.
On the other hand, documentary evidence shows that atheist ideology is more forcefully promoted by the government (Document IV). In other words, a certain normalization of government behavior, that is, the recently established consistency in enforcing the very restricted rights of religion, has not led to an easing of ideological atheist pressures, but on the contrary, to their intensification. Instructions signed by the Minister of Education of Lithuania are very illuminating, clear and concrete on this point. They indicate not only what is to be done to further promote atheist indoctrination but also which agency is responsible for what specific projects and when are particular tasks to be accomplished. According to these instructions, even classes in mathematics and physics are to be used for atheist indoctrination, and teachers have openly to demonstrate their atheist convictions, not to speak of an allowance of mere ideological neutrality. These instructions concerning the teachers clearly contradict the decree of May 12, 1966, of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR which prohibits refusal of employment or dismissal from work on the basis of attitudes toward religion. Teachers do not have such protection in reality.
Soviet authorities thus continue to disregard their own regulations concerning the already very limited rights of religious persons. According to the Chronicle of the Catholic Church of Lithuania and again in violation of the 1966 decree that prohibited refusal of admission or expulsion from an educational institution on religious grounds discrimination against religious students similarly continues.
The more it changes, the more it's the same thing.
I. LETTER BY LITHUANIA'S BISHOPS TO THE PRESIDIUM
OF THE SUPREME SOVIET OF THE USSR
CONCERNING RIGHTS OF RELIGION
IN THE 1977 CONSTITUTION
At this time [summer of 1977] when the people are discussing the draft of the Constitution, the bishops and administrators of dioceses of the Lithuanian SSR, too, receive comments on this draft from the laity as well as from the clergy. These [commentators] have requested that the bishops and administrators express their own opinions and wishes concerning the constitutional draft. We the undersigned therefore offer some thoughts on this matter.
We are attracted and optimistically impressed by the USSR draft Constitution which guarantees a free development and education of citizens' personality, their equality before the law, extension of their rights and freedoms, freedom of conscience, the right to make proposals to the organs of government, etc. We respectfully appreciate the fact that the draft [was] submitted to the discussion by the masses of the people so that all could express to the Constitutional Commission their opinions and proposals on the desired corrections or amendments.
We wish to draw the attention of the Constitutional Commission to articles 36, 50 and 52 of the draft Constitution which in our opinion require a more concrete wording so it would guarantee fuller religious freedom and civic rights to religious believers.
Concerning Article 36
Since religious and ideological differences are no less basic and great than the racial and national, to guarantee the freedoms of all citizens and to insure conditions for their overall development and equality before the law, the wording of the article should be changed to insert words "religions and ideologies" after the words "nations and races." Life experience shows that until now religious believers felt that here and there they were not completely equal despite the fact that freedom of conscience and equality before the law were guaranteed by the still valid  Constitution.
After adopting the proposed corrections, Art. 36 could read as follows:
"Soviet citizens of diverse nationalities, races, religions and ideologies have identical rights.
The enjoyment [realization] of these rights is guaranteed by the freedom for all USSR nations, nationalities, religions and ideologies: by the policy of their overall development and rapprochement; by the inculcation of citizens with the spirit of Soviet patriotism and Socialist internationalism; by the possibility of using native language as well as languages of other USSR nations; by the opportunity to communicate with their own compatriots [people of the same nationality], with their co-religionists and with people of the same ideology all over the world; by an opportunity to exchange with them information as well as spiritual values.
The law will punish any direct or indirect limitation of civic rights [which originates] from fixed, direct or indirect, preferences [for some citizens] on account of their racial, national or ideological characteristics; [the law will also punish] any propaganda of national, religious or ideological exceptionality [superiority], enmity or denigration.
Concerning Article 52
In our opinion, this article does not adequately insure equal rights for both believers and non-believers. It seems to equate the confession of religion with the performance of religious ceremonies [rites]. It speaks of the right of non-believers to conduct atheist propaganda, but it says nothing about the right of believers to teach and study religion. Both the right of atheist propaganda by non-believers and the right of teaching and studying religion basically is the right of information [communication]. It is essential both for believers as well as for non-believers. It therefore should be clearly defined in the Constitution. By confessing religion, every conscientious member of a religious community shows that he is interested in religious erudition as well; expressing this thought in more modest terms, such member is interested in acquiring at least an elementary religious knowledge. In what way and where will he be able to acquire such knowledge if no citizen will have the right to give religious information and to teach religion? [It should be noted], for example, that the decree on the separation of church from the state and school which was proclaimed on Lenin's initiative clearly spelled out this right of believers. "Citizens may teach and study religion in private manner." The equality of the right of information of one's convictions [right of communication] by both believers and non-believers was clearly formulated in the Lenin Constitution of 1918: "The freedom of religious and anti-religious propaganda is guaranteed to all citizens." Such equality of believers and non-believers should be clearly declared in the new Constitution.
After the 1936 Constitution declared the freedom of performing the cult for believers and the freedom of atheist propaganda for non-believers, freedom of atheist propaganda, conducted with the help of state instrumentalities (school, press, radio, etc.) began to dominate the entire public life of our country while freedom of religious information the same limited, at thatwas confined to the buildings of religious cult. Thus a situation was created in which religion and its confession became something of which citizens need [are made] to be ashamed of in public. This deeply injures the moral feelings of believers; it also reflects a profound discrimination of believers as compared to non-believers.
Past experience shows that when the Constitution does not specifically declare the right of religious teaching and study, this right is interpreted in diverse ways: some government officials follow Lenin's decree and do not interfere with private religion teaching in churches; others, however, consider private teaching of religion in violation of the basic law [Constitution] and consequently apply sanctions. Such situation upsets believers of sensitive religious conscience because they cannot "teach those who do not know." The clergy, moreover, [on the one hand] hear Christ's imposed obligation to "go and teach . . ." while on the other hand, [they also hear] the prohibition to teach. And thus the conflict of conscience is continued; a person of sensitive conscience tortures himself not knowing how to act so he is just both before God and the law of the state. It is unthinkable that persons at the wheel of the state would not desire to reconcile these matters in such a manner that produced a solution which would both help to avoid the conflict of conscience to the believers and a misunderstanding to government officials. Discovery of such solution would benefit both sides.
In our view, Article 52 could be reedited as follows:
"Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed the freedom of conscience, that is, the equal right of all citizens to confess any religion, to act according to its requirements, to teach and to study religion, to seek information about one's own convictions and those of the others; they are equally guaranteed the equivalent right not to confess any religion as well as to inform others and to obtain information about one's own atheistic convictions."
Such right of information should be defined by the Constitution in a clear [clearly worded] article, without vague and indefinite conditions such as "in accordance with the interests of the working people and for the purpose of strengthening the Socialist system." Such generalized conditions might conceal discrimination against the rights [of some citizens] and legal exceptionality [preference] as well as privileges for specific groups of citizens.
Concerning Article 50
This article speaks of the citizens' freedom of speech, press, assembly, public meetings, street processions and demonstrations. In our opinion, this article could be formulated as follows:
For the purpose of [facilitating] information on personal convictions, and for the satisfaction of individual as well as communal needs, all citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of speech, press, assembly, public meetings and demonstrations. For any abuse of these rights as well as for turning against state interests common to all citizens, citizens may be held accountable before a court. State officials who interfere with legal freedom may be taken to a court.
The enjoyment [realization] of these freedoms is guaranteed by putting at the disposal of citizens and their organizations public buildings, streets and squares, by the wide dissemination of information, possibility for the use of the press, television and radio in an impartial manner and in proportion to the membership size of involved organizations.
Bishop J. Matulaitis-Labukas
Bishop R. Krikščiūnas
Bishop L. Povilonis
Msgr. C. Krivaitis
Canon J. Andrikonis
Rev. A. Vaičius
FINAL TEXT OF CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS DISCUSSED BY LITHUANIA'S BISHOPS IN THIS LETTER
Article 36. Citizens of the USSR of different races and nationalities have equal rights.
Exercise of these rights is ensured by a policy of all-round development and drawing together of all the nations and nationalities of the USSR, by educating citizens in the spirit of Soviet patriotism and socialist internationalism, and by the possibility to use their native language and the languages of other peoples of the USSR.
Any direct or indirect limitation of the rights of citizens or establishment of direct or indirect privileges on grounds of race or nationality, and any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness, hostility or contempt, are punishable by law.
Article 50. In accordance with the interests of the people and in order to strengthen and develop the socialist system, citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly, meetings, street processions and demonstrations.
Exercise of these political freedoms is ensured by putting public buildings, streets and squares at the disposal of the working people and their organizations, by broad dissemination of information, and by the opportunity to use the press, television, and radio.
Article 52. Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda. Incitement of hostility or hatred on religious grounds is prohibited.
In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.
[The draft Constitution that was discussed by the Bishops contained identical or practically identical text. It was not changed after public discussions, in response to any of the numerous appeals.
Equivalent articles in the new (1978) Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR are: 34, 48, 50. The wording is identical.]
COMMENTARY ON THE BISHOPS' APPEAL BY THE
CHRONICLE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF LITHUANIA
Soviet government completely disregarded proposals by the believers and adopted a Constitution both national and republic which clearly discriminates against believers.
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church of Lithuania recalls, in this connection, a draft of a memorandum to Soviet government suggested by a believer six years ago: "Since the Soviet government is incapable of granting complete religious freedom to Lithuania's believers, we petition you to grant freedom to Lithuania itself. A free Lithuania will guarantee the necessary rights to all of its citizens."
INTENSIFIED ATHEIST INDOCTRINATION IN LITHUANIA SINCE 1977
A. Decree of the Collegium of the Ministry of Education of the Lithuanian SSR
on Atheist Education Vilnius, Nr. 89, May 27, 1977
1. To confirm the choice of methods and techniques ordered by the Ministry of Education of the Lithuanian SSR for the purpose of putting into effect the decision of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party "on the Question of the work of inculcating students with atheist ideology [Weltanshauung] conducted by the Secondary school of Pabiržė."
2. To make it the responsibility of the divisions and sections of the Education Ministry as well as institutions subjected to the Ministry's management and the organs of people's education of the cities:
a) to insure that the planned methods are used on time [as scheduled];
b) to strengthen atheist education in schools of general education, in extra-school and pre-school childrens' institutions.
Minister of Education
Chairman of the Collegium
B. The Ministry's Plan for Atheist Education, 1977-1978
[Methods and Techniques Ordered by the
Ministry of Education and Prepared by
Its Division of School Management]
1. Consistently and with a sense of direction to put into effect the decisions concerning people's education adopted by the XXV Congress of the USSR Communist party and the XVII conference of the Lithuanian Communist party.
2. Efforts of improving atheist education of students and of perfecting forms and methods of scientific atheist propaganda must be guided by decisions of the III Plenum of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party (1976) and the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist party "On the question of work of inculcating students with atheist ideology [Weltanschauung] conducted by the Secondary School of Pabiržė."
|(Time for action):||(Responsible agencies)|
||Division of school management of the Ministry, section of extra school and extra curricular work, organs of people's education in cities and districts.|
3. To research the system and methods of atheist education used by collectives of teachers; to offer aid to such collectives in content materials and methods.
(Time and agencies)
The sameauthor of instruction
4. Systematically to discuss questions of student atheist education in faculty councils, school principal consultations and councils of education.
|Continuously||Organs of city and district people's education|
5. To insure that during the class lesson, which is the basic form of teaching-education, students acquire a complex of firm scientific atheist information and a materialist understanding of the principles of the development of nature and society. Interdisciplinary ties should be strengthened, the principle of transmission [presumably, of easy transmission of information from one discipline to another] should be insured. The teacher's firm atheist position must be clear in each lesson. Efforts should be made to develop student ability independently to deepen their knowledge and to orient themselves in the stream of scientific and political information.
|Continuously||Division of school management, or gans of people's education in cities and districts.|
6. To inspect the work of general education schools in one district and one city concerning their activities of putting into effect the decision of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist party "On the question of work of inculcating students with atheist ideology conducted by the Secondary school of Pabiržė."
|1978||Division of school management of the Ministry of Education, sections on extra-school and extra-curricular work of the Ministry.|
7. To research how subjects of natural sciences, mathematics and humanities as well as related extracurricular programs are used for the fostering of the scientific atheist ideology of students pursuing their atheist education.
|1978||The sameauthor of instruction|
8. To inspect the collection and dissemination of atheist literature in the libraries of general education schools in two cities and two districts.
|1978, 1979||Republic School library|
9. To improve the system of atheist education employed by the faculties of schools of general education and preschool children's institutions; this system is [expected] to continuously influence students, to absorb diverse forms and directions of classroom teaching and of extracurricular work, to inculcate atheist convictions in students, [to develop] the best moral qualities of the Soviet man, [and his] resistance to bourgeois ideology, to the influence of religion.
||Section on extra-school and extra- curricular work, extra-school children's agencies of the Republic, organs of people's education in cities and districts.|
10. Systematically to control the extra-school and extracurricular activities of schools of general education and of extra-school children's institutions; to analyze the effectiveness of organized programs as well as their impact on students' atheist education.
||Continuously The section on extra-school and extra- curricular work, Republic extra-school children's institutions, organs of city and district people's education.|
11. On the basis of [using] subjects of instruction, with a firm sense of direction to inculcate materialist ideology in extra-curricular activities. Each school activity group, especially an atheist group, must propagate scientific atheist information, unmask the reactionary role of religion in the historical development of science, and unfold the importance of a materialist understanding of the world for the progress of society.
|Continuously||Section on extra-school and extra- curricular activities; organs of people's education in cities and districts.|
12. To seek that schools of general education consistently work together with student parents; systematically to monitor families, study their educational influence on children; to spend much attention on individual work with student parents who are believers; in pedagogical departments, for student parents to discuss problems of forming scientific atheist ideology.
|[Not indicated in the Lithuanian original]|
13. To strengthen the ideological and political sense of direction in textbooks, to raise their scientific and methodological level, to accentuate in them scientific atheist ideas which would form the foundation for the fostering of materialist ideology during the lessons on each instructional subject.
|1977-1980||Section of teaching methods [of the Ministry], Pedagogical Scientific Research Institute.|
14. To prepare and publish the following pedagogical-methodological publications on atheist topics:
D. Poneris, L. Krotova, Scientific Atheist Education While Teaching Physics; J. Kundrotas, The Discovery (Praregėjimas); V. Komarovas, Conversations About Religion and Atheism; I. Zaksas, Who Created World Order; V. Necajeva, T. Markova, Methodology of Moral Education in Kindergarten; H. Tidikis, Methodology of Atheist Influence; V. Gladutis, From the Experience of Home Room Teacher; Z. Bajorūnas, Education of Children in the Family; A. Urbonas, Science About Man.
|1977-1980||Section of teaching methods of the Ministry.|
15. To prepare a letter on methods of student atheist education in contemporary conditions.
|1978||Pedagogical Scientific Research Institute|
16. To organize a scientific conference on practical matters concerning the questions of the formation of materialist ideology and atheist education.
|1979||Pedagogical Scientific Research Institute, Republican Institute for Self-Improvement of Teachers.|
17. In compiling republican pedagogical readings, to plan (publication of) reports on topics concerning Marxist-Leninist ideology and atheist education of students.
|Annually||Republican Institute for Self- Improvement of Teachers|
18. In the special seminars for the improvement of teachers' qualifications and in the seminars for chairpersons of groups which study discipline subject methodology to more broadly examine the possibilities of the formation of materialist ideology, atheist education and inculcation during classroom teaching of individual disciplines.
|Annually||Republican Institute for Self- Improvement of Teachers|
19. Sponsors and leaders of student groups of young naturalists, young chemists, young physicists should organize a seminar on the questions of formation of materialist ideology and atheist education.
|1979||Republican Institute for Self- Improvement of Teachers|
20. For the purpose of propagating scientific atheist literature, in city and district centers to organize long lasting exhibits of atheist literature.
|1978-1979||Republic School Library|
21. Editorial boards of Tarybinis Mokytojas (Soviet Teacher), Tarybinė Mokykla (Soviet School), Moksleivis (Student), Šeima (Family) should more broadly publish on questions of atheist education in schools and families. These journals should publish a series of articles on the formation of scientific ideology and atheist convictions during class lessons (while teaching) on Lithuanian literature, Russian literature, history, social science, biology, chemistry, physics, etc. Information should be published [furthermore] on the system of extra-curricular activities [conducted] for the fostering of scientific atheist ideology of students. Teachers should be offered a series of theoretical and methodological articles on questions of the formation of scientific ideology and atheist convictions of the youth.
|1978-1979||Editorial boards of listed publications|
LAW ON RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS
ADOPTED BY THE PRESIDIUM
OF THE SUPREME SOVIET
OF THE LITHUANIAN SSR
ON JULY 28, 1976
(Provisions of this statute are virtually identical with the law adopted by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federated Soviet Socialist Republic on June 23, 1975).
1. The present statute applies to all religious societies and groups of believers of all faiths and religious movements, and also to religious centers, clerical and other associations of all denominations which are active on the territory of the Lithuanian SSR.
2. Religious associations of believing citizens of all cults must register as religious societies or as groups of believers.
Each citizen may be a member of only one religious-cult association (society or group).
3. A religious society is a local association of believing citizens eighteen years of age or over, of one and the same cult, faith or movement, not less than twenty persons in number who unite for a common satisfaction of their needs.
Those believing citizens who because of their small number cannot organize a religious society have a right to organize a group of believers.
Religious societies have a right to acquire church utensils, articles of religious cult, means of transport, [a right] to lease, build and buy for their needs according to procedure established by law.
4. In conformity with legislation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, decision on the registration of a religious society or a group of believers and on the opening of a prayer building is made by the Council for the Affairs of Religion at the Council of Ministers of the USSR on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR.
A religious society or a group of believers may start its activities only after [receiving] the decision on the registration.
5. To register a religious society, its founders, in number not less than twenty people, submit an application for the registration of a religious society and for the opening of a building of prayer (Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran church and so on) to the executive committee of a district, city (city of republic subordination), council of working people's deputies which makes a decision on the application, and together with the received application of believers directs it to the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR.
6. For the registration of a group of believers, the application, signed by all the believers of this group, is submitted to the executive committee of district, city (city of republic subordination), council of working people's deputies which makes a decision on the given application, and together with the received application directs it to the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR.
7. After receiving registration materials of the society or group of believers, the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR considers it according to established procedure.
8. In conformity with legislation of the Union of SS Republics, the register of religious associations, houses and buildings of prayer is kept by the Council of Religious Affairs at the Council of Ministers of the USSR which establishes the procedure for the presentation of the necessary data concerning religious associations.
9. The list of members of religious societies or groups may include only those believers who have expressed their consent to it.
10. According to established procedure, for the satisfaction of religious needs, the believers who constitute a religious society may receive for use free of charge a special prayer building on terms laid down by a contract concluded by the religious society with the executive committee of district, city (city of republic subordination), council of working people's deputies.
For prayer meetings, believers who constitute a religious society or a group of believers may also use other premises presented to them for lease by the executive committee of district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies or by individual persons with the consent of these executive committees. These premises are governed by the same rules which are established for prayer buildings by the present statute; contracts for the use of such premises are concluded by individual believers on their own personal responsibility. In addition, these premises must satisfy the building-technical and sanitary rules.
A religious society or a group of believers may use only single premises for prayer.
In prayer buildings and premises, it may keep only property of the cult, including books necessary for the performance of a given cult.
11. Transactions and agreements related to the management and use of cult property, such as, contracts on hiring cleaning women, guards, janitors, stokersstove tenders; on delivery of fuel, repair of the prayer building and the cult property, on acquisition of products and property for the performance of religious rites and ceremonies and similar activities which are closely and directly connected with the teachings and rituals of the given religious cult, and likewise on the hiring of premises for prayer meetings, may be concluded by individual citizens who are members of executive organs of religious societies or by the representative of the group of believers.
Such transactions may not have as their object [such] contractual relations which though connected with the cult nevertheless pursue commercial or industrial aims.
12. General assemblies of religious societies or groups of believers (except for prayer meetings) may take place [only] with the permission of executive committee of the district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies.
13. For a direct execution of functions connected with the management and the use of cult property (Art 11), also for the purposes of outside representation, religious associations, in general assembly of believers and by open ballot, elect executive organs from among their members[a body] or three members in religious societies, and one representative in a group of believers.
14. The executive committee of district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies has the right to remove individual persons from the executive organ of religious society or [the right to remove] the representative of a group of believers.
15. For the purpose of auditing cult property and sums of money which are received by way of collection or voluntary donations, religious associations, in a general assembly of believers, may elect from among its members an auditing commission of not more than three members.
16. Meetings [sessions] of the executive and auditing organs of religious societies and groups of believers take place without notification of or permission from the organs of government.
17. Religious associations have no right to organize and conduct special children's and youth meetings and likewise work, literature and other circles and groups which have no relation to the performance of the cult.
18. Instruction of religious doctrines may be allowed only in clerical scholastic institutions which are founded according to an established procedure.
19. The sphere of activities of the servants of the cult or of religious preachers, etc., is restricted to the place of residence of members of the religious association which they serve and to the location of the corresponding premises of prayer.
Activities of the servants of the cult and of religious preachers who permanently serve two or several religious associations are restricted to the territory permanently inhabited by believers who belong to the indicated religious associations.
20. In accordance with the legislation of the Union of SS Republics, religious centers of society or group, in each individual case with the permission of the Council for Religious Affairs at the Council of Ministers of the USSR, may convene religious congresses. Religious centers, ecclesiastical governing boards and other organs of religious organizations which are elected in meetings, congresses, conferences direct only religious (canonical) activities of associations of believers. They are maintained with the means secured by religious associations solely on voluntary basis.
Religious centers, diocesan administrations have the right to produce church utensils, articles or religious cult and to sell these to societies of believers, and likewise to acquire means of transport, lease, construction and purchase of buildings for their needs, according to established legal procedure.
21. Religious centers, and also executive organs of religious societies and groups of believers may make use of stamps, seals and letterhead stationary with the imprint of their name, solely for matters of a religious nature. These stamps, seals and letterhead stationary may not include emblems and slogans established for institutions and organs of Soviet government.
22. Property necessary for the performance of the cult, whether handed over under a contract to the use of believers who constitute a religious society or newly acquired or donated to them for the needs of the cult, is state property and remains registered by the executive committee of district, city (city of republic subordination) council of deputies of the working people, with the exception of property which in accordance to the legislation of the Union of SS Republics may be the property of religious associations.
23. Prayer buildings and cult property are handed over to the use of believers who constitute a religious society under terms and under the procedure laid down in the contract concluded by the religious society with the executive committee of district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies.
24. Cult buildings and their property [property located in cult buildings] are received from the executive committee of district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies, according to the contract, by not less than twenty members of the religious society for the presentation of the named property for the use of all believers.
25. It is provided in the contract that persons who receive cult building and property for the use are obligated:
a) to keep it up and to take care of it as state property entrusted to them;
b) to repair cult buildings, and also to cover expenses connected with the management and the use of this property, such as heating, insurance, payment of taxes, dues, etc.;
c) to use this property exclusively for the satisfaction of religious needs;
d) to compensate for the loss caused to the state by the deterioration or defects of the property;
e) to keep an inventory description of all cult property, into which to enter all newly acquired (by purchase, donation, transfer from other prayer buildings, etc.) objects of religious cult which do not belong to individual citizens by right of personal property, and to exclude from the inventory description, with the consent of the corresponding executive committee of district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies, objects which have become unfit for use;
f) to admit, without hindrance, at any time, with the exception of the time during which religious rites are performed, authorized representatives of the executive committees of district, city/apylinkė [village] and locality councils of working people's deputies for the auditing and inspection of the property.
26. Buildings of the cult which have historical, artistic and archeological significance [and are listed] in the special register of the Ministry of Culture of Lithuanian SSR, are handed over according to the same procedure and on the same terms, but with an obligatory observance of established rules for the register on and upkeep of the monuments of history and culture.
27. All local inhabitants of a corresponding denomination or movement have the right to sign a contract for the receipt of buildings and property of the cult for use, acquiring, in such way, the right to participate in the administration of this property on equal terms with persons who originally signed the contract.
28. Each signer of the contract may cancel his signature by submitting a corresponding declaration about it to the executive committee of the district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies; this, however, does not free him from responsibility for the preparation and maintenance of the property during the time until the submission of such declaration.
29. Buildings of religious cult are subject to compulsory insurance at the expense of the signers of the contract.
Insurance compensation for the burnt (damaged) buildings of prayer accrues to the corresponding executive committee of the council of working people's deputies which keeps account of these buildings.
30. The question of the closure of a prayer building in corresponding cases is considered, in an established procedure, by the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR.
The closure of prayer buildings transpires in the presence of representatives of the financial department of the executive committee of the district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies and of other interested departments, and also of the representatives of the given religious association.
31. The transfer of a building of the cult, which is used by believers, to other needs (in the case of the closing of a prayer building) is allowed according to established procedure. Believers who constitute a religious society are informed of such decision.
32. The question concerning the use and reconstruction for other purposes or the demolition of prayer buildings which are subject to closure and are not under state protection as monuments of history or culture is considered, in an established procedure, by the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR.
33. The contract on the lease of premises for the needs of religious associations (art. 10, part 2) up to the exploration of the term of contract cannot be dissolved in any other way but by court procedure on the basis provided by law.
34. At the closing of a prayer building, cult property is divided in the following manner:
a) all objects of platinum, gold, silver and brocade as well as precious stones are subject to the transfer to the disposition of local financial organs or organs of the Ministry of Culture of the Lithuanian SSR, if these objects were registered there;
b) all objects of historical, artistic or museum value are handed over to the organs of the Ministry of Culture of the Lithuanian SSR;
c) remaining objects (icons, priestly vestments, gonfalons, palls, etc.), which have special significance for the performance of the cult, are handed over to the believers for transfer to other buildings of prayer of the same cult; these objects are entered into the inventory of cult property in accordance with general rules;
d) every-day objects (bells, furniture, carpets, chandeliers, etc.)are subject to be handed over to the disposition of local financial organs or organs of the Ministry of Culture of the Lithuanian SSR, if these objects were registered by them;
e) expendable property, (for example) money, and also incense, candles, oil, wine, wax and fuel, which have definite and specific significance for the fulfillment of the conditions of contract or for the performance of religious rites of the cult, is not subject to confiscation in case of the continuation of society after the closure of the buildings of prayer.
35. Registration of a religious association may be cancelled in case it violates legislation on religious cults.
The question of cancelling registration of a religious association, in an established procedure, is considered by the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR.
36. The question of rescinding the contract on the use of the prayer building or the cult property in case of non-observance of this contract by a religious association is considered, in an established procedure, by the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR.
37. For substantive or routine repairs and also for other construction or repair work religious associations secure the consent of the executive committee of the district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies which concluded the contract on the use of the cult building.
38. Application of religious associations asking for permission for the construction of new prayer buildings with the means of the believers, in individual cases are considered, in an established procedure, by the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR.
39. If because of its decaying condition, the prayer building threatens fully or partially to collapse, the executive committee of the district, city, apylinkė [village] or locality council of working people's deputies has a right to propose to the executive organ of religious association or the representative of the group of believers temporarily to discontinue the holding of religious services and meetings in it, until a special technical commission inspects the building.
At the same time, the corresponding executive committee informs the Ministry of Culture of the Lithuanian SSR of its decision temporarily to close the prayer building, if the cult building has historical, artistic or archeological significance and is protected as a monument of history and culture.
40. A representative of religious association is invited to the technical commission that is established by the executive committee of the district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies.
41. In case the technical commission recognizes [decides] that the building is threatening to collapse, it is necessary to indicate in the adopted report whether the building is to be demolished or it is sufficient appropriately to repair it. In the latter case, the report must indicate exactly what repairs in the prayer building need to be carried out and the time necessary for the carrying out of repairs. Religious associations have no right to allow the holding of religious services and meetings of believers in the building until the completion of repairs.
42. Decision by the executive committee of the district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies made on the basis of the inspection report of the technical commission, is obligatory and is subject to execution.
43. In case the believers refuse to carry out the repairs indicated in the report of inspection, [its] contract concerning the use of the building and cult property becomes subject to be rescinded according to established procedure.
44. In case the executive committee of the district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies decides to approve the inspection report of the technical commission that the prayer building is subject to demolition, the contract with the believers on the assigned use of this building is rescinded according to established procedure.
45. For purposes connected with the maintenance of the prayer building, cult property, the hiring of the servants of the cult and the maintenance of the executive organ of a religious association, religious associations and members of groups of believers have a right to make collections and gather voluntary donations in the prayer building among members of the given religious association.
Religious associations have no right to create mutual aid funds, cooperatives, production associations, to use property at their disposal for any other purpose but the satisfaction of religious needs, and also [have no right to] give aid to their members.
Servants of the cult are forbidden to engage in visitations (koliadovaniia) of believers.
46. Any acquired property is subject to an obligatory entry into the inventory description of the cult property.
Voluntary gifts (donations) which are made for the purpose of decorating the prayer building with the donated object or for the purpose of beautification of the objects of the cult, are entered into the inventory description of the entire cult property, available for a free use by the religious association.
All other types of voluntary donations in kind which are not made for the above mentioned purposes, and also money donations whether for the benefit of religious society to maintain the prayer building and premises (repair, heating, etc.) or for the benefit of the servants of the cult, are not subject to be added to the inventory description of cult property.
Voluntary cash donations by believers are accounted for in the income-expenses books kept by the treasurer of the religious association.
47. Members of the executive organs of religious associations and authorized representatives of groups of believers may spend donated sums in accordance to the purposes of managing the prayer building and the property of the cult.
48. Prayer meetings of believers organized in societies or groups may take place without notification or permission of the organs of government in buildings of religious cult or in specially adapted premises which satisfy construction-technical and sanitary regulations.
49. Performance of religious rites and ceremonies of the cult, and also the keeping of objects of the cult, is not allowed in state, public, cooperative institutions and enterprises.
The present prohibition does not extend to the performance of religious-cult rites in isolated premises at the request of the dying or critically ill [patients] in hospitals or in places of deprivation of freedom, and equally [does not extend] to the performance of religious rites in cemeteries and in crematoriums.
50. Religious processions, performance of religious rites and ceremonies under open skies and also in apartments and houses of believers are allowed by special permission, obtained each time from the executive committee of the district, city (city of republic subordination) council of working people's deputies, with the exception of the performance of religious-cult rites in apartments and houses of believers at the request of the dying and the critically ill.
Applications to obtain permission for religious processions and the performance of religious rites under open skies must be submitted not later than two weeks before the date of the fixed ceremony.
Religious processions and also performance of religious rites and ceremonies outside the location of religious association may be allowed, each time by special permission, by the organ which concludes the contract on the use of the property of the cult. Such permission may be given after [obtaining] a preliminary consent from the executive committee of that local council of working people's deputies on whose territory the holding of processions, rites or ceremonies is proposed.
51. Special permission from or notification of organs of government is not required for religious processions which constitute an inalienable part of religious service and is executed around the building of the cult in the city as well as in rural localities, under conditions that these processions do not violate normal street traffic.
52. Registration of religious societies and of groups or believers, and also supervision of their activities and of the safe-keeping of the building and cult property handed over to the use of the believers on the basis of contract in the territory of district, city of republic subordination is placed in the executive committees of district, city (city of republic subordination) councils of working people's deputies. In rural localities, in cities of district subordination and in city-type localities such supervision is placed also in the executive committees of apylinkė, city, locality councils of working people's deputies.
53. Violation of the present statute draws responsibility in accordance with existing legislation.
Secretary of the Presidium of the Supreme
Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR
I Text in Chronicle of the Catholic Church of Lithuania, No. 33
(1978), pp. 12-17.
II Text from Moscow News supplement to issue No. 42 (Oct., 1977).
III Chronicle of the Catholic Church of Lithuania, No. 33 (1978), p.17.
IV Ibid., No. 34 (1978), pp. 19-25.
V Decree No. IX-748, Lietuvos TSR Aukščiausios Tarybos ir Vyriausybės žinios, Aug. 10, 1976, it. 191-93. Russian text provided by the Lithuanian Helsinki Monitoring Group and published in Arkhiv samizdata 2841 v (Munich, Germany).