Overcoming relations of the state & religious institutions
The idea of urgent necessity to develop Russia’s state religious policy became lately so customary that many of its supporters long ago stopped up thinking of its precise meaning. But though there is still no answer what does it indeed signify, its principal and the most immediate task is often stated clearly and with much confidence: it’s the introduction of the sole concept of the State and religious institutions’ relations. It’s widely assumed that all the existing problems should easily be solved after the State clearly defines its position and declares its attitudes towards different religious organizations and their activities while religious organizations (or just some of them, which have “the right of voice”), in their turn, confirm their support to the State’s point of view. Series of agreements backed by the responsible opinions of the prominent religious and public leaders as well as perhaps several scholars and experts would serve as the prelude to the mutual peace and harmony. Such tкte-а-tкte is usually presented as “the religious policy” that is – also usually – accepted synonymous to the State and religious institutions’ relations. And if so, no other players except for the State and its religious institutions are allowed to that ground (well, perhaps some spectators, but only by special invitation).
Various academic structures and human right organizations, the mass media and even parishioners themselves all become such spectators. Their only business is to observe, to comment, to advise, and as a last resort to sound the alarm. Their existence somewhere around the State-and-religious institutions playground becomes noticeable only because of the critical sounds they sometimes produce, but the critique must be quite selective and broaching just a few aspects. For instance, they say: the State isn’t quite right when it prohibits the Church’s involvement into the public schooling. Or: the Church isn’t right when presuming it has all rights to get involved into the system of public education. Another example of the reason for expected alarmism: cooperation of the State’s power structures and the Church violates constitutional principle that declares the independent existence of both the Church and the State. Or: according to the Constitution, every citizen of the Russian Federation has the right of conscience and the right of religion; thus prohibiting the religious institutions from the participation in the everyday life of the military subdivisions means violation of the civil rights of the Russian federation citizens. And so on.
But neither academic structures nor human rights organizations – not to mention the mass media – do not take part in the religious policy creation; they just express – one way or another – their views regarding things, which are being done by others, and may only hope their opinions would influence some debatable situations.
The argument exists to justify such system. As a rule, we’re being told of the underdeveloped civil society in Russia and this obvious fact presumably should make us believe no public initiative or good will might have any effect until such society somehow appears by itself.
As a result, both the State and religious institutions are turning out to be existing separately not one from another, but both from the society and the real religious life while the actual state of affairs in this sphere is being regulated by the system of private accords and confidential bilateral agreements. It almost doesn’t matter some of these are often contradicting the declared principles of the freedom of religion and the equality of religious institutions before the civil law as well as other primary clauses of the Russian Federation legislation.
To change the rules of this “game” is possible particularly with simple increasing the number of its participants. In this case each and every player would have to learn to build the communication with the others; to find and defend its own position within the entire system of such interrelations; to take into consideration the standpoints of various other players while clearly formulating own point of view; to carry on discussion – and altogether to actually transform the existing model finally doing so within the open public space.
The following institutions should become the independent subjects of the religious policy:
- religious journalism of all sorts;
- academic structures presented by the professors’ and students’ corporations (which might be aggregated around the theological and religious fields of study / learning);
- the legal profession – both the advocacy business and the human rights institution – that stands up for the rights of parishioners in case of their violation by both the State and the religious organizations;
- expert councils, which are expected to advise on debatable issues including the legal ones; such councils should consist of both the legal and theology professionals as well as the representatives of the religious organizations, academic circles, and state structures;
- inter-religious councils, which should become the communicative and consulting grounds that unite the representatives of various religious systems and institutions;
- international organizations that become increasingly influential in the situation of the law internationalization;
- various associations and unions of parishioners who may and should have certain structures for their own representation – especially within the local governments – out of the traditional religious institutions.
The policy – if it’s not just the concentration of the secular or clerical elite’s efforts aimed at achieving some explicit or concealed goals, but the aggregation of all the political process participants actions that lead to some common purposes and take into consideration not only “political heavyweighters” interests – won’t be possible without institutionalization of the so called system of restraints and counterbalances . Intended against the possibility of power seizure and abuse by any single player, such system compels all the political process participants to perfect their dialogue and to search for the compromises that suit public interests best.
Today, when the system of restraints and counterbalances in the state-religious sphere isn’t yet created – and moreover, there is no even clear awareness for its urgency, – the State and religious institutions relations have been reduced to the bilateral system of “cooperation within competition”. Both sides – the State and the religious organizations – aren’t really concerned about creating the system of power distribution, mutual control, and counterbalance (not to mention the other participants of the civil process influence).
Obviously, it’s not the exclusive right of the State to create the religious policy – it’d become real only because of all the parties mutual efforts. However, invention and introduction of the specific political infrastructure that would secure stability of the emerging religious policy is unquestionably the sole responsibility of the State.
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