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2019

June 2019: Religious Associations in the Debate about Same-Sex Unions in Estonia
The issue of recognising same-sex unions has been discussed in Estonian society since the early 2000s. In 2005, (...)

  • June 2019: Religious Associations in the Debate about Same-Sex Unions in Estonia

The issue of recognising same-sex unions has been discussed in Estonian society since the early 2000s. In 2005, the new draft of the family law declared marriage as a union between a man and a woman, whichand initiated a public debate of how same-sex unions should be recognised. The Estonian constitution, which was passed in 1992, does not specify that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, but it declares that ‘family’ is under the protection of the law. Family, again, is not in any way defined. The first phase of the discussion ended with a proposition made by a number of NGOs to draft a new partnership law and give all couples equal rights.
The second phase began in 2008, when the Ministry of Justice announced that it was working on a separate law to recognise registered partnerships of same-sex couples. The law, for example, provided inheritance and shared property ownership rights to same-sex couples. When the draft was made public, both the churches separately and the Estonian Council of Churches (ECC), representing 10 religious associations, passed a declaration on the issue, stating that they were opposed to the law to recognise registered partnerships. According to the ECC, in the Bible, homosexual practices were considered a sin and therefore the ECC could not support any other family regulations than the one between a man and a woman.
In autumn of 2010, there was a clash in the Lutheran church when Rev Heino Nurk, who had been ordained in 1983, was fired because the government of the Lutheran church said that he had gone against the doctrine and ethical norms of the church. In the summer of 2010, Nurk had registered a Society of Gay Christians, whose members asked for equal rights for heterosexual and gay Christians within the church.
This was followed by two petitions, both published by the Lutheran clergy on a special petition internet site in September 2011. First, the Humanist Christian Petition called the church to recognise different views, regardless of sex, education, sexual orientation, etc., so that all Christians would feel welcome and have equal rights in the church. Likewise, every church member had the right and obligation to hold a view on the matters of the church. The petition also dealt with the issue of the Bible, saying that in the Bible one needed to distinguish the social norms of the time when the Bible was written and timeless religious norms. A few days later, a petition of traditional Christianity was released. That petition said that religious freedom of the last decades could lead to a dead end and therefore it was necessary for the church to stay firmly behind its traditional position, which according to the petition the church had always held. The Bible was to be read with ‘religious eyes’ and it was certainly necessary to consider it as a basis in formulating social norms.
After the interference of the Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder in May 2011, with his request that the Ministry of Justice should introduce a civil partnership law, because the current situation, which did not legally recognise same-sex relationships, contradicted the Estonian constitution, a new and more heated public discussion began. By 2012, the Ministry of Justice had a draft of the law ready which reached the parliament by spring 2014. It was called the Registered Partnership Act (Kooseluseadus).
In 2014, before the law was ready to go to the parliamentary session for voting, the ECC sent an open letter to the parliament, and once again declared its support to the so-called traditional family and marriage between a man and a woman. Other questions were asked in the letter: how would it be guaranteed that the old way of understanding family and marriage would not be overruled, and that the new law would not cause mistrust and intolerance? What were the next steps planned? How did the law affect children, and their rights for an equally natural treatment by their fathers and mothers? How did it affect adoption?

During the discussions, the NGO Society for the Protection of Tradition and the Family (SPTF), ran by conservative Catholic circles, was established. It helped to set up a united stand for the conservatives, who in spring 2014 started a campaign against the Registered Partnership Act. A petition on paper was sent to thousands and thousands of homes, to be signed by those who supported the cause promoted by the SPTF. Altogether nearly 37,000 people expressed their support to the petition. A few years later, the conservative website Objektiiv was launched, which is still run by the SPTF, publishes articles against abortion and the current politics of the European Union, and is strongly anti-immigration.
The Registered Partnership Act was submitted to the Parliament on 17 April 2014 and was passed on 9 October (40 for, and 38 against). Several members abstained from voting. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves signed the act on the same day, and it took effect on the 1st of January 2016.
However, the adoption of the act did not mean that the discussion and a severe contradiction between different social groups ceased to exist. There are two lines of development to follow. One is related to the Registered Partnership Act, and the other one to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia.
The Registered Partnership Act took effect without implementing measures, and was, therefore, likely to cause a number of legal problems. In 2015, the new government, now including the conservative party Pro Patria, decided that the parliament, and not the government, should pass the measures for a full implementation of the law. So far, it has not happened, and after the parliamentary elections in March 2019, with an even more conservative government and parliament than earlier, it will probably not take place in the coming years either. At the same time, in spring 2018, the Estonian Supreme Court ruled that the law was still in effect and should be enforced, despite the lack of implementing measures.
The position of religious communities has become more diverse. Over the years, the number of clergy who publicly declare their support to the Registered Partnership Act has risen. In this respect, the Lutheran Rev Annika Laats received the most supportive and condemning reaction, when in October 2017 in a TV show she asked from a young ECP politician why he was condemning and frightening people on the issue of gays and the act. The Lutheran church asked Laats to its government meeting, but did not take any action. At the same time, theological discussion over the matter has remained quite modest, so that only a few scientific articles by biblical scholars from the University of Tartu and the University of Tallinn have been published, but they have largely been ignored by religious associations, or caused dissatisfaction, arguing that the faculty of theology at the University of Tartu is too liberal.
By 2017, there appeared an old aspect newly discovered, namely the aim to change the constitution. The issue was raised by Urmas Viilma, the archbishop of the Lutheran church, who was the first to affirm that same-sex couples needed protection too, but to do that religious associations needed to be sure that the state of marriage would be protected by the law and would only mean a man-woman union. During its parliamentary session, the Lutheran church proposed that the constitution should be altered, so that it would include a definition of marriage. Although the idea received support from the church and has by now also received support by the ECC, it has angered the most conservative voices, who already in 2017 and thereafter have repeated that the Registered Partnership Act has to be abolished. They are supported by the CCP. At the same time during the parliamentary session of the Lutheran church Rev Mart Salumäe gave an interview to the Estonian National Television and claimed that even during the Soviet occupation period the church had not been as hostile and angry towards minorities as nowadays and there had always been gay pastors in the church, some had even held a rank of a dean (the Lutheran church consists of deaneries). Annika Laats was amazed over the church’s attempt to regulate the life of those who do not belong to the church (According to the 2011 census, only 29% of the population claim that they belong to a certain religious association, more than 95% of them are Christians).
After the parliamentary elections in March 2019, the ECP as a government party has begun to fight to change the constitution in order to add the possibility of an easier way to organize a referendum to either pass or abolish laws. They have come out loud, hoping to abolish the Registered Partnership Act. However, to change the constitution it has to get a majority in two following parliaments, so that the issue has to receive the majority of votes of the parliament, which will be elected in 2023 too. So far, the constitution has been altered only a few times, and it has always been after a wide agreement between all political parties has been reached.

Source: Priit Rohtmets. Eesti usuelu 100 aastat. Tallinn: Post Factum, 2019.

  • March 2019: Churches in the Estonian 2019 Parliamentary Elections

Parliamentary elections were held in Estonia on 3 March 2019. More than ever before, churches and religious organisations publicly presented their views and, although openly no church favoured a political party, churches wanted to have an influence in promoting parties with views similar to their own.
Estonian society, similarly to many European societies, is going through a period of antagonism, with a rising right-wing Estonian Conservative People’s Party (CPP) that is opposing to Estonian mainstream politics, and claims to offer a conservative and nationalistic alternative. CPP describes the current political mainstream as a globalising and left-wing liberal policy. In its rhetoric, the conservative party has become very loud, and it turned the campaign for parliament into a confrontation based on the so-called traditional values. The CPP loudly supports the abolition of the law recognizing same-sex unions, reducing money given for abortions, and defining the marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In its rhetoric, the CPP is against the European Union.

Although a few pastors stood for parliament (most of them belonged either to the CPP or to a more moderate conservative party Pro Patria), Christian religious communities in general, which form up to 95% of Estonia’s religious landscape, presented their views in a public letter, signed in September 2018 by the Estonian Council of Churches (ECC). The letter was sent to political parties represented in the parliament, and reflected the Council’s view on the subjects considered the most important before the upcoming parliamentary elections in March 2019. The Council has an agreement contract with the Government of Estonia, signed in 2002, and another contract with the ministry of Justice was signed just a month before the elections and is the major partner of the state in religious affairs.

The council paper held 9 propositions (in Estonian):
1. In legal practice, the freedom of conscience and religion should be implemented in all possible cases and in a balanced context of other freedoms (lately the balance in Council’s opinion has not been adopted – for example in the case of law on the equal treatment, which has not yet been implemented but has been negotiated).
2. The state must value marriage and family as the basis of the society. The council supports the proposition to change the constitution in order to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Estonian Health Insurance Fund should finance pregnancy crisis counselling in favour of financing abortions. The council also thinks that family strengthening programmes should be better financed, and that shelters for women and young mothers should be financially supported.
3. Religious education at schools, which is a voluntary subject, should be more easily available. This requires an analysis of what measures should be implemented to increase the number of public schools teaching religion.
4. The state should value more the participation of religious organisations in local communities. As the churches have a network covering the country, the measures of social services and youth and cultural work need the support of the state, because sometimes the help given by the local government is not enough.
5. In legal practice, the exceptional position of religious organisations should be taken into account.
6. The council supports the continuation of the project to renovate sacred buildings, because they are a part of Estonian cultural heritage. The project ended in 2018, and in the future the renovation of sacred places is not separately financed.
7. To implement a ‘rule of a percentage’, so that a person could according to their wish give 1% of their income to an NGO of their choice. The donation could be divided between three organisations maximum. The donations received by pensioners and people with low income should be reimbursed by the Estonian tax and Customs Board. (It has to be noted that, already in 1919, the Republic of Estonia implemented a law according to which it was the business of religious organisations to collect the tax from their members. The same policy was implemented after Estonia regained its independence in 1991.)
8. The council supports the creation of a hospital chaplaincy in each hospital. Currently there are only a few chaplains working in larger hospitals. The council also supports the idea to create a chaplaincy for schools and asks the state to help to work out the necessary measures.
9. The value tax paid for the renovation of sacred buildings should be returned to churches. This would motivate religious organisations to invest in renovating their buildings.

The proposals soon had a follow-up when in February 2019 Urmas Viilma, the archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, the leader of the largest church among Estonians, published a “Compass for Christians” (see Delfi and Meie Kirik), where he had analysed the programmes of political parties and put them in the context of the propositions made by the ECC.
He gave 0 to 3 points to each proposal made by the ECC, which he found in the party programmes. He gave 0 to parties who did not favour the proposal or held a view opposite to it. One to two points were given when parties had similar proposals or supported the proposals to an extent that the implementation of the proposal was realistic in the coming future, and 3 when there was a total overlap of the ECC proposal and party program. The results turned out to be in favour of the ruling Centre party with 32 points, Pro Patria with 28 points, social Democrats with 19 points, Free Party with 15 points, CPP with 14 points and a new political party, Estonia 200, with 6 points.
While most of the political parties did not comment on Viilma’s compass, Estonia 200 and CPP claimed that the archbishop was just complying with the ruling parties, who had financially supported the church by ending a discussion over a church in central Tallinn with a compensation. (See Delfi, in Estonian.) As a result, an ultraconservative webpage Objektiiv, which has been since its launch in 2015 until November 2018 led by the Lutheran pastor Veiko Vihuri, questioned the archbishop’s decision to rate Christian values as important as, for example, the renovation of church buildings. The webpage called the compass, “depressingly primitive and obedient”. In response, the editors of Objektiiv, which represents the views of the most conservative Christians, created their own compass, claiming that the CPP represented best the views of Christians. The compass was sent by post mail to most of the Estonians.
The elections turned out in favour of liberal parties – the Reform Party got 33,7% and the Centre Party 25,7% of the votes. However, the two liberal parties were not willing to unite, because the current Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre Party) wanted to remain Prime Minister and, therefore, was willing to form a coalition with the moderate pro-Patria (11,9% of the votes) and the CPP (18,8%). The social democrats got 9,9% of the votes. This caused a storm in Estonian society, which continued for months after the elections.
Urmas Viilma compared the coalition agreement with the propositions of the ECC, and published a “Christian coalition agreement”, eventually claiming that the coalition agreement between Centre Party, pro-Patria and the CPP had mentioned 2/3 of the ECC propositions as something they would like to tackle over the coming years.

D 25 June 2019    APriit Rohtmets

2017

January 2017: A new mosque in Tallinn?
Already for years, there have been rumors and a public discussion about the erection of a new mosque in Tallinn – the capital of Estonia. Until now, local (...)

  • January 2017: A new mosque in Tallinn?

Already for years, there have been rumors and a public discussion about the erection of a new mosque in Tallinn – the capital of Estonia. Until now, local Muslims have gathered in an Islamic Center, which also functioned as a mosque. In 2015, the head Imam of local Muslim community, Ildar Muhhamedšin, declared publicly that a mosque would help better integration of Muslims and refugees in the Estonian society. After this, a group of Muslims asked for financial support from the Republic of Estonia and from the city of Tallinn to build a new mosque. However, as religious associations are self-governed, and the state as well as municipalities do not erect sacred buildings in Estonia, this application was turned down. Some members of the Estonian Islamic community have said that taking into account the number of Estonian Muslims, which is relatively small (in 2011 census it was little more than 1500), there is actually no need for a new mosque and that the Islamic Center would do just fine.
This happens at the same time as an emerging conflict within the Estonian Muslim community. The tension is mostly caused by the allegedly illegal financial actions of Muhhamedšin in handling the finances of Estonian Islamic community. It has divided the community. A criminal investigation is going on. In August 2016, it was rumored in Estonian press that Muhhamedšin wanted to buy land in Kadriorg – a region in Tallinn, where the residence of the President of the Republic of Estonia is located, and build a mosque there. Muhhamedšin denied later these claims, emphasizing nevertheless that there was a need for a new mosque, because of a division in the Estonian Muslim community. He claimed that the new converts and residents in Estonia had taken over the Estonian Islamic Center, and, therefore, the old community was seeking to build a new mosque. In reality, the division within the community is not so clearly based on the identity of ‘new’ and ‘old’ members; it is more between those who support Muhhamedšin and those who criticize him.
In October 2016, during a visit to the Republic of Estonia, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed that Turkey was ready to financially support the erection of a new mosque to Estonia, when an agreement with Estonian authorities would be reached. The minister claimed that the representatives of moderate Islam would need to become more active, because otherwise terrorists and extremists would prevail. The Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia Taavi Rõivas commented on the statement, saying that he had no knowledge that the Islamic community in Estonia wanted a new mosque.
The news given by Turkey’s foreign minister came just a few months after Turkish authorities had confirmed that there was no plan to support the erection of a new mosque to Estonia. Soon after the visit of the Turkish Foreign Minister, Estonian media reported that Turkish officials visited Estonia with the aim to investigate the possibilities for the building of a new mosque.
Conservative politicians are the most opposed to the erection of a new mosque. For example, MP Martin Helme (Conservative People’s Party) has spoken against it, saying that it is a symbol of cultural and religious superiority. A call to oppose the erection of a new mosque via an online petition was made in October 2016. By the beginning of 2017, more than 3,500 people have signed the petition.

Source in English:
Ringo Ringvee, "Estonia", in Oliver Scharbrodt (ed.), Yearbook of Muslims in Europe, vol. 8., Brill, 2017, pp. 221-238.

Sources in Estonian:
- in Postimees: "Mufti: mošee aitaks põgenikke Eesti ühiskonda integreerida", "Türgi on valmis rajama eestlaste nõusolekul Eestisse mošee", "Rõivas: palvemaja rajamiseks ei pea riigilt luba küsima", "Peaimaam: Kadriorgu pole plaanis mošeed rajada",
- in Petitsioon: "Oleme vastu mošee ehitamisele Tallinna või mujale Eestisse!",
- in Epl.delfi: "Mošee on kultuurilise vallutuse sümbol", "Eesti muslimite imaam sättis end elama koguduse rahaga ostetud külaliskorterisse".

D 2 February 2017    APriit Rohtmets

2016

October 2016: Celebrating the Reformation by kicking the Virgin Mary?
In October 2016, the year-long celebration of the Lutheran reformation began with an ecumenical service in Tallinn. Together (...)

October 2016: Celebrating the Reformation by kicking the Virgin Mary?

In October 2016, the year-long celebration of the Lutheran reformation began with an ecumenical service in Tallinn. Together with the Reformation, the Lutheran church celebrates the 100th anniversary of its independence, and the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in 2018. This is marked by a series of events, gathered under the title Landmarks of Freedom.
Just a few months before that, the Estonian National Museum opened in Tartu. The museum, founded in 1909, has for decades operated in various buildings and has waited for its own house for more than a century. After a grand opening ceremony, an exhibit gained much attention – in a section where the Lutheran reformation was described, the destruction of sacred pictures and church belongings during the reformation was mentioned. An animation was provided: every visitor could identify themselves as one of the vandals who committed the destruction, by kicking an image of the Virgin Mary with their foot. She would then fall into pieces, and after seconds would become one again.
A question was then raised by religious leaders, and gained so much attention from the public in the following weeks that it sadly overshadowed the opening of the new museum. Church leaders emphasized that the kicking was an unpedagogical way of interpreting the Reformation, because it was against Christian principles to kick someone. The fact that it was the Virgin Mary made the kicking even worse, because without any explanation, this could be interpreted as kicking a young woman. On the other hand, some defended the interpretation, emphasizing the need to remind that the Reformation had not been as smooth a process as what we might think it was. What made the public reaction even worse, was the first explanation given by the museum. The PR person of the museum defended the interpretation, claiming that in a society where there was no state church, it was possible to make fun about religion, and interpret historical as well as religious events with a sense of humor. The director of the Museum, Tõnis Lukas, later tried to soften the interpretation, explaining that the museum did not want to make fun of any particular group in the society, but wanted to unite people. He agreed that kicking the Virgin Mary was probably not the best way to explain the Lutheran Reformation, and decided to remove the possibility to kick her offered as an animation. Consequently, the exhibit itself was not removed, but the animation and the kicking were. The visitor can now only see how the Virgin Mary collapses, and after a few seconds, is put together again.

Priit Rohtmets

- September 2016: Should the President go to church?

In September 2016, Kersti Kaljulaid took office as the new President of the Republic of Estonia. After an inauguration ceremony in the Parliament, she welcomed guests in an art museum in Kadriorg Castle. Less than a few months later, the biggest daily newspaper Postimees published a newsflash claiming that the Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Urmas Viilma, had addressed the President after her election and before her inauguration, and had invited her to a service at the Lutheran Dome Cathedral near the Parliament house after her inauguration ceremony. Such an invitation is a custom which goes back to the presidential inauguration of Lennart Meri, who was the first president to take office in 1992, after the Soviet occupation had ended in 1991. Since 1991, a religious service has been a part of all major state anniversaries and many other State events. Although the Republic of Estonia does not have a State church, its relationship to the church is described positively in the constitution, and it is mentioned that the State and religious associations cooperate in the fields which are deemed important by the two of them.
President Kaljulaid decided to turn down the invitation of Archbishop Viilma. After her decision was made public, for another two months the newspaper headlines discussed her right to do so. On the one side, some emphasized freedom of religion and conscience of an individual (§40 in the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia), claiming that the President, like any other citizen, has a right to choose whether to attend the service or not. On the other side, critics stressed the need to maintain the traditions, because given the young age of the State, there are few of them anyway. A more serious critique underlined the President’s duty to be the president of all the people of Estonia, including the members of religious associations. Critics said that her action insulted Christians.
President Kaljulaid explained that she respected the work that religious associations are doing in Estonia, but considered religion to be a private matter. She added that it would be dishonest to participate in services, when she didn’t have this habit before her presidential election. At the same time, she said that in the past, she had accepted invitations to events of religious nature and with representatives of religious associations. For example, during her tenure at the European Court of auditors (she served there from 2004 until 2016), she was invited to the Vatican by Pope Francis, and she went there because she considered it customary to accept the invitation.
Other articles, on the same topic, accused Archbishop Urmas Viilma of having the agenda to make Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church into a state church. The truth is that, after Viilma had been turned down by the President, he had offered various solutions to the question, including holding an ecumenical service, but the President did not change her mind.
In a National Television Christmas interview, the President said that the neutrality of a state was the best guarantee against outside intervention and influence coming from other religions. She said that it enabled us to understand what was foreign and strange to us, and what were our own customs and traditions. Some agree with her, and some claim that in order to have an understanding of “the other”, the society needs to understand its particular religious identity, and religious as well as cultural past. Critics have said that her understanding of a state’s neutral position cannot be fully carried out without recognizing the Christian past of Estonia.
For Christmas, the President decided to visit places where people have to work during the holidays, e.g. fire brigade, military, etc. During the visit, she also went to a service carried out by a Lutheran military chaplain. The President later defined it as a "contemplation service". Before Christmas, she had argued in an interview that the tradition of Christmas was much older than Christianity and had various meanings. At the same time, she has confirmed that she values the work that churches are doing. As proof of that conviction, during her regional calls she has several times dropped by local congregations, with the aim to recognize and praise the work which they are accomplishing.

Sources (in Estonian):
in Postimees: "Kaljulaid selgitas oma suhet kirikuga", "Viilma: olen väga rõõmus, et president Kaljulaid ei näe kirikul ainult tseremoniaalset rolli",
in Delfi: "EELK peapiiskop: president Kaljulaid käis kirikus"

Priit Rohtmets
  • Debates in 2015-2016: Ban on burqas?

In 2015, the Estonian public discussion was heated by two topics: the discussions on the European migration crisis, and a debate on whether burqas and niqabs should be banned in public space in Estonia. The discussion was initiated on 7 August 2015 by the Minister of Social Protection from the conservative Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit) who noted that Estonia should regulate certain behaviour alien to Estonian customs. Although the idea had wider implications concerning public safety and security aspects, the discussion became defined in the public as "the burqa-ban." The reactions to this idea were diverse. While the Gender Equality Commissioner argued that prohibiting some culturally or religiously motivated garments would breach constitutional rights, the former Estonian judge at the European Court of Human Rights Rait Maruste referred to the practice of the ECtHR allowing limitations to certain religious dress codes. The Estonian Women’s Associations Roundtable supported the proposal to prohibit wearing niqabs and other dress codes that are "discriminating against women."
The reactions from the Estonian Muslim communities were diverse as well. Ildar Muhhamedšin, Imam of the Estonian Islamic Congregation, considered the proposed idea as a violation of religious freedom, and expressed his willingness to turn to the EU institutions for help if the ban was implemented. However, the former chairman of the Estonian Islamic Congregation, Timur Seifullen, from the Tatar ethnic community, considered the idea to prohibit facial covering as reasonable. He stressed that niqabs and burqas are regional particularities, and not something required by Islam as a religion.
As a result of the proposal by the Minister of Social Protection, the Ministry of Justice began to draft legislation that would regulate the wearing of face-covering garments in the public square. In September 2016, there is still no regulation implemented concerning facial covering in public.

Sources: Mihelson, Helen, "Naisteühenduste ümarlaud toetab burkade keelustamist avalikus ruumis" (Roundtable of Women Associations gives support to the prohibition of burqas in public), Postimees, 27 November 2015; "Eesti tatarlane: Koraan ei nõua naistelt näo katmist" (Estonian Tatar: Qur’an does not require face covering of women), Estonian Public Broadcasting News, 12 August 2015; "Võrdõigusvolinik: püüd keelustada näokatteid on põhiseadusega vastuolus" (Equality Commissioner: attempt to ban face covering is violating the Constitution), Estonian Public Broadcasting News, 7 August 2015; "Arvamused nägu katvate riiete keelamise osas lähevad Eestis lahku" (Opinions on prohibiting full face covering garments differ in Estonia), Estonian Public Broadcasting News, 8 August 2015.

Ringo Ringvee

D 5 October 2016    APriit Rohtmets ARingo Ringvee

2013

May 2013: Animal Protection Act
In 2012 questions concerning religious slaughtering were discussed as the amendment in the Animal Protection Act was drafted. The first version of the draft (...)

  • May 2013: Animal Protection Act

In 2012 questions concerning religious slaughtering were discussed as the amendment in the Animal Protection Act was drafted. The first version of the draft intended to outlaw all non-stunned slaughtering. Due to the pressure from the Jewish community an amendment in the Act then allowed post-cut stunning.

  • May 2013: Protection of Historical holy sites in nature

In 2008 the Estonian Ministry of Culture implemented a development plan for the protection of historical holy sites in nature. The debates concerning the protection of the historical holy sites in nature had been going on since the mid 2000s, the main problem being the use of sacred holy sites (groves, sacred hills etc) for economical profit making by the forest industry for example. The development plan that ended in 2012 will be continued in 2014.

  • 14 May 2013: Amendment in Family Law Act

In 2012 the Estonian Ministry of Justice started to draft an amendment in the Family Law Act that would regulate same sex partnerships. While the draft is supported by the sexual minorities, it has also raised strong reactions from traditional Christian circles. In 2012 a group of lay Catholics established the Foundation for the Protection of Family and Traditional Values. The Foundation started to collect signatures for their appeal for the protection of traditional family values. In one and a half month, the Foundation collected 38.000 signatures for their appeal, almost four times as much as what they had hoped for. On 14th May 2013, the appeal was handed over to the Speaker of the Parliament. The debate on the draft continues.

D 25 September 2013    ARingo Ringvee

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