Yeltsin neither signed the bill nor vetoed it completely, but Tuesday, 22 July, he sent the bill back to the Duma and Federation Council with requested amendments.
Keston has the printed version of Yeltsin's speach to the Russian people. He states that there needs to be a law but that this law which he partially vetoed violated international treaties and would restrict religious minorities.
In September the Duma will either integrate President Yeltsin's requests and return it to him to sign or try to override the President's veto with a two-thirds majority.
The two-thirds majority must be from all the voting members of both the Duma and the Federation Council. Although the Duma passed the bill with exactly a two-thirds majority: 300 votes for and 8 against on 23 June, President Yeltsin would only have to sway approximately three dozen Duma members to block the veto. And the Federation Council did not pass the bill with a two-thirds majority 4 July (112 to 4). The Federation Council needs 117/118 of their 176/178 members (depending on whether Chechnya is included).
Yeltsin said 'Undoubtedly, Russia needs a law on the freedom of conscience and religious associations, for it must protect the moral and spiritual health of the nation and raise reliable barriers to radical sects which inflict great damage on the physical and mental health of our citizens...
'However, many povisions of this law infringe upon the citizens' constitutional and human rights, legalise inequality between different confessions and are at variance with Russia's international commitments. If signed in the current form, this law will inevitably lead to the isolation of Russia's traditional confessions and, most important, give rise to religious conflicts...
'It is my duty as the Russian president to observe the constitution and to protect the legitimate rights and freedoms of the individual and citizens.'
While Yeltsin's reason's for partially vetoing the bill are in line with his role as president, he still states a new law is needed to prevent 'radical sects' from harming public health and morals. He also states that the law was backed not only by the Russian Orthodox Church, but by 'ten other main religious organisations of Russia'. Who those ten 'main' religious organisations are is not mentioned.
As reported in Keston News Service over the past six weeks, the Baptist Union, the Pentecostal Union, Seventh Day Adventists, Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, Roman Catholic Church, Initsiativniki Baptists, Russian Orthodox Free Church, Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Old Believers and members of the Russian Orthodox Church have all formally protested the law. In addition to the Pope's letter and the Senate's bill to withdraw up to $200 million funding, The European Union, Sakharov Centre in Moscow, an article published in Izvestia and even Yeltsin's 1996 statement clearly stated such a law was unacceptable.
Source: Keston News Service
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