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Présentation générale

The state-church relationship in the Republic of Lithuania is based on the following principles : separation, religious freedom, ‘traditionality’ and recognition.
The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Konstitucija) states the equality of believers before the law. Freedom of religion, together with freedom of thought and conscience, is embedded in the Article 26 which provides for freedom of religious practice as well : ‘Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion shall not be restricted. Everyone shall have the right to freely choose any religion or belief and, either alone or with others, in private or in public, to profess his religion, to perform religious ceremonies, as well as to practise and teach his belief.’ Article 29 forbids the granting of privileges or discrimination on grounds of religion : ‘Human rights may not be restricted ; no one may be granted any privileges on the grounds of gender, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, belief, convictions, or views’.

Three different statutes

There is no state religion in Lithuania, the state and the church are separate. According to the Article 43, ‘[t]he State shall recognise the churches and religious organisations that are traditional in Lithuania ; other churches and religious organisations shall be recognised provided that they have support in society, and that their teaching and practices are not in conflict with the law and public morals’.
However, the Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania (4 October 1995, No. I-1057 ; consolidated version in force since 5 January 2010) has incorporated the differentiation of religious communities, as well as the model of cooperation between the state and religious organisations. It divides religions into three groups : those supported by the state, which comprises ‘traditional’ religious groups and ‘recognised’ religious groups, and other religious groups. The latter must register with the government to obtain legal status.
The first group includes nine traditional religious communities and associations that are part of Lithuania’s historical, spiritual and social heritage and are receive special benefits from the state. These are : Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Evangelical Lutherans, Evangelical Reformed, Russian Orthodox, Old Believers, Jews, Sunni Muslims and Karaite Jews (Article 5).
The constitution grants the second group state recognition as religious organisations, provided they do not contradict the Constitution or the law. The requirements for religious associations seeking a state recognition are provided in the Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania (Article 6). Currently, four ‘recognised’ religious communities and associations groups are granted by the state limited benefits.
The third group – other religious communities and associations - must follow the requirements provided in the Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania (Article 11) in order to register with the government and to obtain legal status.
According to the Constitution (Article 43), churches and religious organisations are free to proclaim their teaching, perform their ceremonies, and have places of worship, charity establishments, and schools for the training of priests. They may conduct their affairs freely according to their canons and statutes. Their status in the state is established by agreement or by law. Property rights are provided in the Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania : ‘Religious communities, associations and centres may hold by the right of ownership houses of worship, residential houses and other buildings and structures, production, social and charity facilities, as well as other assets necessary for the activities of the religious communities and associations.’ (Article 13)

The status of the Catholic Church

For the Catholic Church, which has the most members, church-state relations are governed by the Constitution and the Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania, but also by several other agreements. In 1990, the Act for the Restitution of the Status of the Catholic Church in Lithuania was adopted, which declared cooperation between the State and the Church on the basis of parity. In 2000, three agreements (Agreement between the Republic of Lithuania and the Holy See concerning the Juridical Aspects of the Relations between the Catholic Church and the State, Agreement between the Republic of Lithuania and the Holy See concerning the Pastoral Care of Catholics Serving in the Army, Agreement between the Republic of Lithuania and the Holy See on cooperation in Education and Culture) were concluded between the Republic of Lithuania and the Holy See. Subsequently, special laws were developed on the basis of these agreements.

D 13 juillet 2021    ARasa Pranskevičiūtė-Amoson

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