Kiev, February 19, Interfax - Banning the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) for its refusal to change name would be unlawful, the UOC said.
A day earlier the Culture Ministry said that, unless the UOC complies with the re-naming law, a court could ban its operation.
Such an approach is unlawful, the UOC's chief lawyer Archpriest Alexander Bakhov said.
"Today there is no legal ground to de-register or shut down the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. What we are seeing is the Culture Ministry trying in every possible way to pressurize UOC religious communities with a view to forcing them to rename themselves. Also, all kinds of threats are being made to strip UOC religious organizations of registration," the priest was quoted by the UOC information and education department as saying on Tuesday.
The "Freedom of conscience and religious organization" law cited by the ministry sets out specific cases where a religious organization may be suspended, he said. Change of name is not among those cases, but there are some, such as violation of the property use rules, an attempt on the life, health, freedom of a human, and so on, which could be used to suspend other religious organizations, "for instance, the newly-formed Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Kiev Patriarchate all fall under some signs of this article whereby their operation may be suspended. Have they been seizing property? They have. Have they violated the law? They had. Have they been inciting inter-religious animosity? They have. But for some reason, the Culture Ministry is not in a hurry to suspend their operation by a court order," the priest said.
On December 20, 2018 Verkhovnaya Rada passed a bill requiring the UOC name to include a reference to its affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Church. President Pyotr Poroshenko signed the bill into law on December 22, 2018.