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Legal framework

General overview

The state church relationship in the Republic of Latvia is based on the following principles: separation, religious freedom, "traditionality", respect of neutrality and delegation of particular (...)

The state church relationship in the Republic of Latvia is based on the following principles: separation, religious freedom, "traditionality", respect of neutrality and delegation of particular powers.
The 8th chapter of the Satversme (Constitution) has incorporated the main principles of fundamental rights. Two articles are related particularly to the liberty of conscience. Article 99 of the Satversme states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The church shall be separate from the State". Article 114 of the Satversme states: " Persons belonging to ethnic minorities have the right to preserve and develop their language and their ethnic and cultural identity." It all indicates that every person, including minorities, in Latvia has equal rights to the free choice of religion. It is also declared in article 2 of the Law of Religious Organizations, which states: "The state does not grant any privileges to any religion or confession."
In Latvia there is no state religion, and state and the church are separate. According to the Latvian Civil Code (1937), the Latvian State has delegated the right to register marriages to eight denominations. These denominations are Ev. Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Believer, Methodist, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist churches and the Jewish religious community. All these denominations in Latvia are so called "traditional Churches", which allows :

1. Agreements with State and these churches (2004). Each of these agreements has a preamble recognizing the special role of the Church in the existence of the legal system of the country and system of values of the society, as well as its significant contribution to the morale and process of socialization of the society.
2. Special Laws considering the long-standing existence and spread of the Church as a traditional religious organisation in the territory of Latvia and recognizing "its contribution to and rich experience in the areas of society’s physical and mental health, education, culture, social support and other areas."

For the Catholic Church, Church-State relations are governed by the Agreement of Cooperation between the State and the Latvian traditional religious denominations, and special Laws by agreement concluded with the Holy See in 2000 on this basis.
The Latvian model emerged in the 2000’s after the Latvian State concluded an agreement with Holy See; it contains 7 agreements of cooperation with Latvian traditional religious denominations as well as specific laws for some traditional Churches. In comparison with other European countries, the Latvian system seems to show the greatest similarities with the Italian-Spanish pattern, but of course some elements should be noticed also from other East European countries such as Hungary or Poland.

D 27 September 2012    ARingolds Balodis

Comparative table

Comparative table of specific laws* and Latvian Republic agreement with Holy See** clauses Nº What is determined Adventists Baptists Methodists Jew Old-believers Lutherans Orthodox Catholics (...)

Comparative table of specific laws* and Latvian Republic agreement with Holy See** clauses

What is determined Adventists Baptists Methodists Jew Old-believers Lutherans Orthodox Catholics
1 Status of public juridical personality No No No No No No No 2. §
2 Recognition of absolute autonomy No No No No No No No 1.§, 4.§
3 Rights to enter in the marriage 7.§ 8.§ 6.§ 8.§ 7. § 8.§ 9.§ 8.§
4 Traditionalism 2. § 2.§ 2.§ 2. § 2. § 2. § 2. §
5 The right to interpret the Scriptures 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 4.§
6 Protection of title 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § No
7 Religious festival No No No No No No 16.§ elsewhere***
8 Unappeasable canonical decisions 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § No
9 Contacts with foreign centre No No No No No No No 3. §
10 Rights of the confessional secret and protection of pastoral conversation 9.§ 9.§ 8.§ 9.§ 8.§ 9.§ 10.§ 7.§
11 Spiritual oversight of the chaplains 11.§ 11.§ 10.§ No 10.§ 11.§ 12.§ 27- 28§
12 Coordination of decision-making and binding decisions of foreign centre No No No 15. § No No No 5 §
13 Legal status of Sacred place No No No No No elsewhere**** 7. and 16.§ 11.-13§
14 Interment, cemetery 8.§ 6.§ 7.§ 6.§ 6. § 6. § 6. § No
15 Representation and leader 4.§ 4.§ 4.§ 4. § 4. § 4. § 4. §
16 Confidential information for the President of Latvia about appointment of the new church leader No No No No No No No 5. and 24.§
17 Tax allowances No No No No No No No 12.§
18 Property, finances 5.§ 5.§ 5.§ 5. § 5. § 5. § 5. §
19 Conditions of financial contribution No No No No No No 16.§ 12.§
20 Disclaimer of financial rights in educational institutions 14.§ 15.§ 14.§
21 Budget spending 15.§ 15.§ No 13.§ No 15.§ 17.§
22 Military service 10.§ 10.§ 9.§ 10.§ 9.§ 11.§ 10.§ 26.§
23 Protection and availability of cultural monuments 6.§ 7.§ No 7.§ No 7.§ 8.§ 22.§
25 Immunity of cult place No No No No No No No 6.§
26 Cooperation on asylum 12.§ 12.§ No 11.§ No 12.§ 13.§ No
27 Access to prisons***** elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere 30.§
28 Relations with employees 13.§ 13.§ 11.§ 12.§ 11.§ 13.§ 14.§ 1 and 4§
29 Relations with clergy No No No No No 13.§ 14.§ 5.§
30 Educational issues 14.§ 14.§ 12.§ No 12.§ 14.§ 15.§ 14-20.§
31 Educational institution’s autonomy of content No No No No No 14.§ 15.§ 4. and 15§
32 Rights of employees in educational institutions No No No No No No No 19.§
33 Theological seminary No No No No No No No 20.§
34 Faculty of Theology of the University of Latvia No No No No No No No 21.§
35 List of clergy 16.§ 16.§ 13.§ 14.§ 13.§ 16.§ 18.§ No
36 Protection of personal data 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § 3. § No
37 Right to access to mass media No No No No No No No 9.§
38 Military Ordinariate No No No No No No No 23-25,28§
39 Financing of Military Ordinariate No No No No No No No 28-29§
40 Revision of relations No No No No No No No 31-33§

* Law on Latvian Association of Seventh-day Adventist Communities: official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis, 2007. 12.junijs Nr.93; Latvian Baptist Community Association Law: official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis, 2007. 30.maijs nr. 86; Latvian Joint Methodist Church Law: official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis, 2007. 6.julijs 91; Law on Riga Jewish Religious Community: official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis,. 20 June 2007 98; Latvian Old-Believers Pomor Church Law: official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis, 2007. 20.junijs 98, Law on Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church: official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis, 03.12.2008., Nr. 188, Law on Latvian Orthodox Church:. official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis, 03.12.2008., Nr. 188
** The Agreement between the Republic of Latvia and the Holy See November 8, 2000: Starptautisks ligums. official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis, 25.09.2002., Nr.137
*** On international shrine in Aglona: official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis. 21.10.1995., Nr. 162
**** Law on Doma church and monastery ensemble: official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis, 22.06.2005, Nr.98
***** Regulations 02.07.2002. of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia No 277 "On the Chaplain Service", official gazette Latvijas Vestnesis, 05.07.2002, No 101.

D 27 September 2012    ARingolds Balodis

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