Children may lose Religious Rights in Tajikistan

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Editor

tajikistanDUSHANBE, TAJIKISTAN (Worthy News)-- The Tajikistan Parliament recently adopted two new laws that could ban children from participating in religious activities.

The new laws are to be forwarded to President Emomali Rahmon for his approval.

The Parental Responsibility Law along with new Criminal Code amendments may affect many religious organizations, including churches in Tajikistan supported by the Slavic Gospel Association.

The Parental Responsibility Law will ban children under the age of 18 from participating in religious activities; the Office of Human Rights in Tajikistan said the new law will be needed needed should parents lose control of their children to extremist religious groups.

"I'm sure the government would say that it's aimed basically at extremism," said Joel Griffith of the Slavic Gospel Association. "It's really difficult to know what their real motivation is for passing such a thing, because it goes beyond targeting just what everybody would agree maybe would be extremist elements ... As the law is worded, it would seem to impact everybody."

The Parental Responsibility Law also restricts certain jewelry, tattoos and even names parents can choose for their children.

"You've got local churches themselves that would be impacted by this," said Griffith. "There's question whether children would even be allowed to go to a worship service until they're 18 years old ... It's a matter of deep concern to the churches."

If the laws are enacted, state religious affairs officials have specialists who would be present at religious services to be sure the laws are being followed; the proposed Parental Responsibility Law, along with the recent amendments to the Tajikistan Criminal Code, can carry a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment.

"Evangelical churches are going to continue to proclaim the gospel no matter what, and I'm sure that they are going to continue to teach their children the things of the Lord," Griffith said. "But obviously as they proceed to do that, it would put churches and their families at great risk if this (proposed law) is enforced aggressively."