Vietnam Unveils Law said to 'Guarantee Religious Freedom'

( [email protected] ) Jul 16, 2004 02:10 PM EDT

Vietnam has unveiled a new law that it says guarantees religious freedom while reinforcing state management of religious activity. The Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions, made public Monday, July 12, warns that those who use religion to "undermine the state" will be punished. The law, which goes into effect in November, prohibits religious activities that affect Vietnam's public order.

According to sources, the Presidential Office on Monday made public the ordinance on beliefs and religions, which will serve as a legal basis to ensure the people's basic right to belief and religious freedom and reinforce the State's management in the area.

The ordinance is described as an important step in implementing legal and administrative reform and a milestone reflecting the Party and State's policy of respecting the people's right to religious freedom in the process of renewal. It states that citizens enjoy the right to beliefs and religions, and are free to practice or not a religion of their choice.

The State ensures the citizens' right to belief and religious freedom, which cannot be violated by anyone, and that all religions are equal before the law, the ordinance emphasizes, further saying that adherents of religion as well as non-believers must respect each other's viewpoint.

The ordinance contains stipulations banning the abuse of the right to religious freedom to undermine peace, independence and national unity; incite violence to wage war and disseminate information against the laws and the State's laws; sow divisions among the people, ethnic groups and religions; cause public disorder; do harm to other people's lives, health, dignity, honor, and property; hinder people from exercising their rights and public obligations; spread superstitious practices and commit acts to breach the law. The ordinance stipulates that only monks and clerics authorized to conduct religious ceremonies can preach religions at the worshipping places of their charge and they must get permission from district-level people's committees to preach in other places.

It also bans individuals and organizations from conducting religious activities that affect the country's security and public order and harm national unity, people's livelihood and the environment.

The ordinance will take effect on November 15.