The country of Kazakhstan has always held itself out as a county, which does not recognize a specific religion. This fact is evidenced by the country’s constitution, which provides all citizens with the freedom to practice the religion of their choice. Of course every freedom comes with its list of restrictions. Throughout the country, public schools are not allowed to educate children on religious aspects and home schooling on religion is also considered illegal. Furthermore, children may enroll in after school religious activity, however the religious organization offering the activity must first have their program approved by the Ministry of Education. Although the country is considered secular, the actions taken seem to prove otherwise.
In 2011, the freedom of religion within Kazakhstan took a whole new turn. The government of Kazakhstan established a new Law on Religious Associations. This law required that “all religious communities in Kazakhstan to obtain registration status to exercise collective religious functions.” The law was also established numerical requirements, which must be fulfilled. To register at the local level, a group needs to have 50 adult members; 500 at the regional level; and 5,000 at the national level. Groups were required to register with both central and local governments in areas where members intended to meet. The government is also given the authority to suspend the activities of a group that fails or refuses to register. This law put the fate of religious communities in the hands of the government, who has the power to deny organizations registration.
Although the larger religious groups of the country, such as Muslim, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Jewish, have complied with the registration requirements other groups have refused to register. Protestant Christian Groups and the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians and Baptists have decided to fight the law and refuse to register, facing threats of suspension of their activities. The UN urges the government of Kazakhstan to end the mandatory registration requirement, finding that it provides insecurity to those religious groups who fail to meet the required threshold in order to be registered. Furthermore, this new law creates a barrier to the Kazakhstan citizen’s right to practice and express their faith freely.
What do you think of this new law imposed by the government? Are the numerical requirements of the law unreasonable? Should religious groups be required to register their organization with the government?