Press Monitoring

Armenia has to break traditions to promote freedom of conscience – US ambassador  10.05.2013

US Ambassador John Heffern thinks that the Armenian authorities are a little bit too tough on the religious minorities seeking freedom from traditional standards and approaches.
At a conference held at the American University of Armenia’s Business Center, the diplomat said that it is important for the Armenian authorities to break the traditional models in order to promote diversity, and freedom of religion and conscience.
Addressing the topic, President of the Cooperation for Peace and Development Center Stepan Danielyan said he observes differences between the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations Law, and the Constitution.
“Amendments were introduced to the Armenian Constitution, with the law having been adopted back in the Soviet period. There are very specific provisions which do not correspond [to one another]. The Constitution says that the freedom of religion [clause] applies to all, regardless of citizenship, but what the law says is that it applies only to the Armenian citizens,” he said, promising to address the conflicting provisions in future.
Danielyan noted that the conference’s objective is to discuss the present-day models and trends of the church-state relationship.
“We have invited well-known scholars from the United States and Russia. It is about ten years that we have a constitution conflicting with the law. The reason is the state’s inability to elaborate relevant policies and reflect that in the laws. It is time for us to take a serious, academic-based approach to the matter,” he said, adding that the conference is aimed at making the society better aware of the problem.
Addressing the topic, Professor Ivan Strensky of the University of California said it is important for the state and church to develop relations as two different hands of the same body. He said the church should never face pressures or be subordinated to the state not to hamper the normal functioning of the body.
David Kirkham, a professor at the Brigham Young University, said such a relationship often depends on the state’s specificities.
“There is no common relationship model. Each country has to resolve the problem in its own way,” he added.