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7/23/97 Yeltsin vetoes law restricting religions

MOSCOW (BP)–Russian President Boris Yeltsin July 22 vetoed a proposed law to restrict free worship, sending it back to the legislature that passed it overwhelmingly.
There seemed to be no doubt that lawmakers could override Yeltsin’s veto, in which case the next step would be objecting to the law in constitutional court on grounds that it conflicts with the Russian constitution passed in 1993.
The constitution affirms the right of foreign missionaries to operate and guarantees the right to profess any or no religion and the freedom to spread religious beliefs. It forbids propaganda claiming one religion is superior to another.
The proposed new law gives pre-eminence to Russian Orthodoxy and names Judaism, Buddhism and Islam as favored faiths. It would take away legal rights of religious groups not registered in the communist Soviet Union before 1982 and would allow missionaries only at the request of recognized groups.
Human rights advocates say the bill conflicts with not only the constitution but with the U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981); the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950); the OSCE agreements (Helsinki Accords); and the 1985 G-7 Agreement on human rights.
Yeltsin urged members of parliament to support his veto. “Many provisions of the law infringe on constitutional rights and freedoms of individuals and citizens, establish inequality between different confessions, and violate Russia’s international obligations,” he said, according to news reports.