Sects Act 1962

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Sects Act 1962
Coat of arms of Varkana.png
Parliament of Varkana
An Act to enable the regulation of cultic groups and the enabling of legal action against these organizations in contravention of human rights and fundamental freedoms
Enacted by Parliament of Varkana
Date passed 9 December 1962
Introduced by Ekvtime Takaishvili, MNA

Status: In force

The Sects Act 1962 (Varkan: კანონი სექციების შესახებ, kanoni sek’ts’iebis shesakheb) was passed by the Parliament of Varkana on 9 December 1962. Enacted during the Third Republic, it makes it, broadly speaking, possible to act against organizations (legal entities) when such organizations have become involved in certain crimes. It also prohibits minors from participating in religious organizations or in public religious ceremonies or activities. The law, in its own words, aimed at movements deemed cultic (sects, or in Varkan: სექციების, sek’ts’iebis) that "undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms". The law has caused controversy internationally, with some commentators alleging that it infringes religious freedom while proponents content it reinforces religious freedom.

Provisions

The Law On Sects aims at strengthening the prevention and punishment of sectarian movements violating human rights and fundamental freedoms by extending the criminal liability of legal persons for certain offenses, leading to the dissolution or prohibition of these movements. Sects or sectarian movements are defined in the law as "an organized group of people following and professing a same philosophical or religious doctrine". This definition is broad and effectively targets all religions of the world, including Armazism, the dominant religion in Varkana. It limits the publicity of sectarian movements and represses the abuses of religious organization on the state of ignorance or weakness of individuals, especially minors. In the case of certain crimes, the law extends legal responsibility from individuals to organizations (corporations, associations, and other legal entities). Courts can order the dissolution and/or prohibition of organizations if they or their executives have been found guilty of these crimes.

Minors (people under sixteen) are prohibited from being members of any religious organization or to participate in any public religious ceremonies or activities. Minors in Varkana are thus effectively all publicly non-religious under the Law On Sects. They cannot attend masses or group prayers, for example, but can attend private ceremonies such as funerals and marriages. The law defines private religious practice as "any religious activity or ceremony performed within a personal or familial space" and public religious practice as "any religious activity or ceremony performed in an open communal view or in an official manner".

Politics

The leading figures in the creation of the law were President Vakhtang Jordania and member of the National Assembly Ekvtime Takaishvili of the Conservative Party and senator Giorgi Noderadze of the Socialist Party. The Parliament adopted the law with broad cross-party support.

The Varkan government, when challenged on issues of religious discrimination, states that it has no concern in any way with religious doctrine per se. The government has taken the position that the law deals with the concrete consequences of religious affiliation, especially with respect to children, and also religious organizations committing crimes. The government sees this as particularly important in the light of past abuse committed in some criminal religions, such as sexual slavery and infant mutilation. The Law On Sects does not target theology; it only focuses on the actions and the methods of sects (religious organizations).

Applications and effects

Since any form of circumcision or genital mutilation performed on a minor is illegal in Varkana since 1960, unless there are legal medical reasons, the Law On Sects can cause religious organizations to be dissolved or prohibited in Varkana should they commit these crimes. As a result, Abrahamic religious activists have feared the law would ban their religion entirely in the country, especially the Jewish Council of Varkana. However, their fears were unfounded, unless religious organizations continued to practice the religious rite of circumcision or genital mutilation on minors. The government of Varkana argued that Judaism was not made illegal in Varkana under the law per se, but rather that minors could not be circumcised or have their genitals mutilated in any sort. Once turning 16 and becoming adults, Varkans can then freely chose, if they want to, a religious organization to join. In the case of Judaism, in order to convert, non-Jews males must get circumcised, which is legal in Varkana, as long as it is performed on a consenting adult.

Criticism of the Law

In Varkana

Matriarch Miranda V defended the law in January 1963 asserting it was necessary to protect by law persons, family, society and religions themselves from sects that are violating fundamental freedoms and human dignity. Some human rights activists retorted that Armazism was greatly spared by the law, as opposed to other religions, and the government thus discriminated on non-Armazist sects. In 1967, an Armazist sect, the Some weirdos bla bla U/C

Since brit milah is a commandment from God that Jews are obligated to follow, and is only postponed or abrogated in the case of threat to the life or health of the child, the Jewish Council of Varkana argued in December 1962 that the government was discriminating upon Jewish families, denying their right to practice their religion freely, and was forcing Jewish male children to become non-religious. The government retorted that Jews performing circumcision on minors were violating the human rights and fundamental freedoms of these minors not to have their bodies altered for non-medical reasons without their consent, and that consent could only be given by adults.

The law effectively banned infant baptism, prompting christian churches to complain heavily. The umbrella association of Varkan Jehovah's Witnesses sued the Varkan government, alleging that the enactment of the Law On Sects infringed its civil rights. The court rejected the application. Subsequently, the Jehovah's Witnesses organization was dissolved in Varkana in February 1963 for its continued practice of public preaching with minors.

Reactions outside of Varkana

Reaction of the government of Breisland

Some critics of Varkan legislation have voiced concerns that countries which do not have the same legal safeguards and constitutional rights as Varkana may emulate this legislation. In the words of a Breislandic official in 1963:

Yet the law itself remains problematic not only because of the threat the language carries in Varkana, but because it is even now being considered for emulation by countries that lack Varkana's commitment to rule of law and human rights. Such a model serves only too well as cover for those nations who persecute under the guise of law enforcement.

On 23 August 1988 the "Breislandic Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor" released a report on religious freedom in Varkana. This report noted that "The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice." It reported concerns over repression of religious freedom in Varkana, notably in regards to family choices for children and rising anti-Catholicism in Varkana.

See also