Law on Religious Freedom and Religious Organizations (2003, amended 2009)

(unofficial translation)

Law of Turkmenistan

On Religious Freedom and Religious Organizations

(Vedomosti Mejlisa Turkmenistana, 2003, no. 4, p. 37)

(as amended by laws of Turkmenistan of 16 March 2004, 18 April 2009 and 2 July 2009)

Turkmenistan, by
reaffirming the right of each person to religious freedom and to the equality before the law regardless of an attitude to religion and belief,
being based on the fact that Turkmenistan is a secular state, recognizing the special role of the Muslim religion in the centuries-old history of Turkmenistan and in the formation and development of its spirituality and culture,
respecting other religions and considering that it is important to facilitate bringing up mutual understanding, tolerance and respect regarding the issues of religious freedom, adopts this Law
.


CHAPTER I.  General Provisions

Article 1.  Subject Matter of this Law

In accordance with the Constitution of Turkmenistan, this Law regulates the legal relations in the area of the human and civil rights for religious freedom as well as it regulates the legal status of religious groups and religious organizations (hereinafter referred to as a “religious organization”).

Article 2.  Legislation on Religious Freedom and Religious Organizations

Legislation on religious freedom and religious organizations is based on the Constitution of Turkmenistan and consists of this Law and other normative legal acts of Turkmenistan.
Should an international treaty to which Turkmenistan is a signatory party set rules different from those contemplated in this Law, the rules of the international treaty shall apply.

Article 3.  The Right to Religious Freedom

Religious freedom is a guaranteed constitutional right of citizens to practice or not to practice any religion, to express and disseminate beliefs related to religion and to participate in practicing religious cults, rituals and ceremonies.
Coercing a citizen to determine his/her attitude towards religion, to practice or not practice a religion, to participate or not to participate in public worship, religious rituals and ceremonies, to receive theological education shall not be allowed.
Involving children under the full legal age in religious organizations as well as in religious training against their will, the will of children’s parents or persons replacing the parents shall not be allowed.
Exercising the right to religious freedom shall not contradict the established public legal order; it may be temporarily limited if needed to ensure national security and public order, to protect the lives, health, morale, rights and freedoms of other citizens.
Foreign citizens and stateless persons who permanently reside or temporarily stay in Turkmenistan shall enjoy the right to religious freedom on a par with citizens of Turkmenistan and bear responsibility under the legislation of Turkmenistan.

Article 4.  Equality of Citizens Regardless of Their Attitude towards Religion

Citizens of Turkmenistan are equal before the law in all areas of civil, political, economic, social and cultural life regardless of their religious beliefs. Mentioning the citizen’s attitude towards religion in official papers shall not be allowed.
Any direct or indirect limitation of the rights of citizens and granting them any privileges based on their religious and atheistic beliefs as well as causing animosity and hatred or offending citizens’ feelings shall bring responsibility under the legislation of Turkmenistan.
Nobody shall evade, because of his/her religious beliefs, from fulfilling his/her duties established by the legislation of Turkmenistan. Replacement of one duty by another one based on one’s religious beliefs shall be allowed only in cases stipulated in the legislation of Turkmenistan.

Article 5.  The State and Religious Organizations

Turkmenistan is a secular state. Religious organizations in Turkmenistan are separated from the State.
 Granting privileges for or imposing limitations on one religion or denomination as opposed to the others shall not be allowed.
The State shall encourage bringing up the environment of mutual tolerance and respect to different religions among citizens, organizations and those who do not practice any religion, among religious organizations of different denominations and their members. The State shall not allow the display of any religious or other kinds of fanaticism and extremism, actions aimed at clashing and aggravating the relations between different religious organizations as well as kindling animosity between them.
Turkmenistan neither entrusts any state functions to any religious organization nor interferes with activities of religious organizations unless these activities are in contradiction with the legislation of Turkmenistan.
The State does not finance activities of religious organizations as well as activities on propagandizing atheism.
Creating and operating political parties and public movements based on religion as well as branches and affiliates of religious parties established outside of the State shall not be allowed in Turkmenistan.
Activities of religious organizations are not compatible with political propaganda.
Religious organizations must observe requirements of the legislation of Turkmenistan.  Using religion for the purposes of anti-governmental and anti-constitutional propaganda, kindling  animosity, hatred and interethnic discord, breaching moral principles and civil peace in the society, spreading slanderous figments that destabilize the situation, creating panic among the population, causing unhealthy relationships between people and taking other actions aimed against the State, society and an individual shall not be allowed.
Activities of religious organizations, denominations, sects and other organizations supporting and advocating for terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and other crimes shall be prohibited.
Any attempts to pressure the state authorities and officials as well as to conduct illegal religious activities, including activities held at home, shall be prosecuted pursuant to the legislation of Turkmenistan.

Article 6. The Educational System and Religion

The educational system in Turkmenistan is separated from religious organizations and is of secular nature.
The right to receive secular education is guaranteed for citizens of Turkmenistan regardless of their attitude towards religion.
Citizens of Turkmenistan shall have the right to learn religious doctrine and receive theological education individually or jointly with other people based on their own choice.
Theological education for children can be provided at mosques with the approval of the Council on Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan and consent from children’s parents or persons replacing the parents or their legal guardians and children themselves, during the after-school hours for no longer than four hours a week.
Persons, who have graduated from higher theological education institutions and obtained an approval from the Council on Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan, can deliver religious training.
Providing theological education in private is prohibited and shall bring responsibility under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan.

Article 7.  State Authorities and Religious Organizations

The Council on Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan is the state authority that regulates activities of religious organizations in accordance with a Regulation to be approved by the President of Turkmenistan.
Within the scope of its powers, the Council on Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan shall:
- exercise control over activities of religious organizations regarding the observance of the legislation on religious freedom and religious organizations in Turkmenistan;
- ensure the implementation of constitutional rights and guarantees in the area of religious affairs;
- represent in state authorities the interests of religious organizations which are located and operating in Turkmenistan;
- consider citizens’ appeals, letters and complaints related to the activities of religious organizations and take measures on eliminating revealed shortcomings and violations;
- provide explanation regarding the application of the Law on Religious Freedom and Religious Organizations;
- create a database of religious organizations in Turkmenistan;
- create an expert council comprising religious scientists, representatives of religious organizations and human rights specialists for conducting religious scientific assessment and, if necessary, give an official expert opinion upon request from state executive authorities and courts;
- facilitate strengthening mutual understanding and environment of tolerance among religious organizations of different denominations both within and outside Turkmenistan;
- maintain contacts and networking relations with religious organizations from abroad and state authorities inside the country.


CHAPTER II.  Religious Organizations in Turkmenistan

Article 8.  Religious Organization

Religious organization is a voluntary association of citizens of Turkmenistan created with the purpose of jointly practicing and disseminating a religion which performs worship services, rituals and other ceremonies, provides religious education and is registered under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan.
Religious organization shall be created on the initiative of no less than five citizens of Turkmenistan who have reached the full legal age and permanently reside in the territory of Turkmenistan.
A religious group shall comprise no more than 50 citizens of Turkmenistan, while a religious organization more than 50.
Citizens of Turkmenistan who, as a rule, have higher theological education can become the leaders of religious organizations.
Religious organizations, which have ecclesiastical centres abroad, shall perform their cult rituals and train their clergymen and other required religious personnel under a procedure established by these centres provided that this does not violate the legislation of Turkmenistan. 
In accordance with their charters and the legislation of Turkmenistan, religious organizations shall have the right to establish and maintain international relations with the purpose of making pilgrimages and participating in other religious events with approval of the Council on Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan.

Article 9.  Theological Education Institutions

The Council on Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan with approval of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan shall have the right to create theological education institutions to train clergymen and religious personnel they need.
Theological education institutions shall acquire the right to conduct their activities after their registration with the Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan and upon obtaining in a legally prescribed manner a license for carrying out activities in the area of education and professional staff training in accordance with the legislation of Turkmenistan.
Citizens shall be admitted for studies to a higher theological education institution after they have received compulsory general secondary education in accordance with the Law of Turkmenistan “On Education.”
Citizens of Turkmenistan may receive theological education at the Theological Faculty of the Magtymguly Turkmen State University.
Citizens of Turkmenistan studying in a higher theological education institution shall enjoy the rights and privileges granted to students of state educational institutions related to receiving a temporary waiver in military call-up, taxation and inclusion of the period of their studies into the overall record of their labour activities under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan. 

Article 10.  Charter of Religious Organization

Religious organization shall operate on the basis of its charter to be approved by its founders.
 The charter of a religious organization must include the following information:
- name and type of religious organization, legal address and kind of religion;
- goals, objectives, and main forms of activities;
- terms and procedure of reorganization and liquidation as well as distribution of its assets;
- structure and administrative bodies, procedure of their formation and their mandates;
- sources of funding and other property of the organization;
- procedure of making changes in and additions to the Charter;
- procedure of entering and withdrawing from religious organization; and
- other information related to the operations of religious organization.
Charters of religious organizations, which have central administrative bodies, shall be agreed upon with these administrative bodies.

Article 11.  Registration of Religious Organizations

Registration of religious organizations shall be made by the Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan upon recommendation submitted by the Council on Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan. Religious organizations shall acquire the status of legal personality from the moment of their registration and inclusion into the Unified State Register of Legal Personalities.
Operating an unregistered religious organization is prohibited. A person who conducts activities on behalf of unregistered religious organization shall bear responsibility under the legislation of Turkmenistan.
 To register a religious organization, the following documents shall be submitted:
- an application signed by the founders and members of religious organization including their places of residence, last names, first names, patronymic names and dates of birth;
- charter of religious organization;
- the minutes of constituent assembly;
- document confirming the address of the religious organization to be created;
- document confirming the payment of a registration fee.
Applications for registration of religious organizations shall be considered within a month from the date of submission.
The Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan shall have the right to request additional materials and receive an expert opinion from relevant authorities. If it is a case, the decision shall be made within three months from the date of submission of the application for registration.
Additions to and changes in the charter of religious organization shall be subject to registration under the same procedure and within the same timeframes as the registration of religious organization.

Article 12.  Refusal to Register Religious Organization

Registration of a religious organization may be denied on the following grounds:
- if an organization being created is not recognized as a religious one;
- if provisions of its charter or other documents do not meet the requirements of this Law or other legislation of Turkmenistan;
- if these documents contain information which is knowingly false;
- if the founders are legally incapable.
If registration of religious organization is denied, the applicants shall be informed about this in writing, and reasons for refusal to register shall be indicated.
Refusal to register religious organization shall not be an obstacle for resubmission of documents for registration provided the reasons, which have caused the refusal, are eliminated.
Consideration of the resubmitted application and making a decision regarding the application shall be done under the procedure stipulated in this Law.

Article 13.  Appeal of Refusal to Register Religious Organizations

Refusal to register a religious organization may be appealed in a court of justice under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan.

Article 14. Liquidation of Religious Organizations

Religious organizations may be liquidated:
- upon decision made by the founders or a body authorized for doing so under the charter of religious organization;
- if registration of religious organization is cancelled by the Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan;
- by a court decision in case of repeated or gross violation of norms of the Constitution of Turkmenistan, this Law and other laws;
- if religious organization systematically conducts activities that contradict the goals for which it was created (charter goals).
 The reasons for liquidating religious organization through court proceedings shall be:
- violating public safety and public order and undermining the state security;
- doing actions aimed at forcible change of the constitutional regime and disturbance of the integrity of the Turkmen state;
- creating armed units;
- propaganda of war and kindling of social, racial, national or religious discord;
- interfering in family relations that result in the break-up of a family;
- infringing upon the personality, rights and freedoms of citizens;
- causing damage to the morale and health of citizens proved in a manner specified in the law, including using in connection to their religious activities of drugs, psychotropic substances and hypnoses and committing unlawful acts;
- preventing from receiving compulsory education;
- forcing members of religious organization and other people to alienate their property to the benefit of religious organization;
- instigating citizens to refuse to fulfil their civil duties as required by the law and to commit other unlawful acts.
A decision on termination of the activities of religious organization is made by the Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan upon agreement with the Council on Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan.
Prosecutor’s office, the Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan, which is authorized to register religious organizations, and bodies of local self-government shall have the right to lodge with a court of justice a recommendation for liquidation of religious organization or termination of the activities of religious organization.
Religious organization to be liquidated shall lose its legal capacity as a legal personality, while assets of this religious organization shall be distributed in accordance with its charter and the legislation of Turkmenistan.


CHAPTER III.  Property Status of Religious Organizations

Article 15. Property of Religious Organizations

Religious organizations may own buildings, constructions, items for worshiping, production facilities, facilities for social and charitable purposes, financial assets and other property needed for conducting their activities as well as property that was acquired or created at their own expense, or donated by (or inherited from) citizens and public associations or transferred by the State as well as the property located abroad or acquired by other means stipulated in the legislation of Turkmenistan.
Religious organizations, including unregistered ones, as well as their members and participants must register with the Ministry of Justice their financial and material assets received through projects and programs on foreign technical and other assistance.
The state authorities of Turkmenistan may transfer buildings of worship and other property that is owned by the State to religious organizations for ownership or free use under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan.
Religious organizations shall possess and use land plots in the territory of Turkmenistan under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan.

Article 16.  Use of Property which belongs to Turkmenistan, Public organizations or Citizens

Religious organizations shall have the right to use for their own needs the buildings and property provided to them by state and public organizations or citizens on the contractual basis.
Religious organizations shall have the preferential right for buildings of worship to be transferred to them which are located in the territory adjacent to them.
A decision on the transfer of buildings of worship and other property to religious organizations shall be made within a month from the date of receiving a petition for this; and the applicants shall be concurrently informed about it in written form.
The transfer to and the use by religious organizations of objects and items that are considered being historical and cultural monuments shall be done in accordance with the legislation of Turkmenistan.

Article 17.  Production and Economic Activities

Based on the charter goals, the central administrative bodies of religious organizations shall have the right to create production, restoration, construction, agricultural and other enterprises in accordance with the legislation of Turkmenistan.
Financial and property donations and other revenues of religious organizations shall not be subject to taxation.

Article 18.  Disposal of Property of Religious Organizations Which Have Ceased Their Activities

After religious organizations have ceased their activities, the property given to them for use by a state or public organization or citizens shall be returned to the previous owner or legal successor.
In the process of ceasing the religious organization’s activities, the disposal of the property it used to own shall be done in accordance with its charter and the legislation of Turkmenistan. A list of worship facilities and items, which creditors cannot claim for, shall be determined by the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan upon submission of the list by the Council on Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan.
In the absence of legal successors the State shall take the ownership over the property.


CHAPTER IV.  Rights of Religious Organizations and Citizens Related to Religious Freedom

Article 19.  Religious Rituals and Ceremonies

Religious organizations shall have the right to freely establish and maintain accessible places of worship or religious rituals as well as maintain the places for pilgrimage.
Worshiping, religious rituals and ceremonies shall be held in the area where religious organizations are located: in buildings of worship and prayer, on the land belonged to them, at places of pilgrimage, at cemeteries and, if necessary for ritual reasons, at homes of citizens at their will.
Commanders of military units shall not prevent military personnel from participating in worshiping and performing religious rituals during their free hours.
Worshiping and religious rituals in medical centres, hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, pre-trial detention centres and prisons shall be conducted at the request of citizens staying there.
Administration of these establishments shall provide assistance in inviting clergymen and take part in determining the place, time and other conditions for conducting worshiping, religious rituals and ceremonies.
Public worshiping, religious rituals and ceremonies outside of buildings of worship and prayer shall be held under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan.
It is not allowed for citizens of Turkmenistan to wear religious attire in public places (save clergymen of religious organizations).
Religious organizations shall neither have the right to forcibly collect money and fees from believers, nor apply to them measures offending their honour and dignity.

Article 20.  Religious Literature and Items of Religious Function

Citizens of Turkmenistan and religious organizations shall have the right to purchase and use religious literature in any language at their own choice as well as other items and materials of religious function.
Production, import, export and dissemination of religious literature instigating religious, national, interethnic and racial discord shall not be allowed. Committing such acts shall bring responsibility stipulated by the legislation of Turkmenistan.
Delivery and sale of the religious literature published abroad shall be done after expert assessment of its content by the Council for Religious Affairs under the President of Turkmenistan under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan.  
Producing, storing and disseminating printed publications, movie-, photo-, audio-, and video-products and other materials, which contain the ideas of religious extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism, shall bring responsibility in accordance with the legislation of Turkmenistan.

Article 21. Charitable, Cultural and Educational Activities of Religious Organizations

Religious organizations shall have the right to show mercy and conduct charitable and other cultural and educational activities both independently and through public funds.
Donations and contributions for these purposes shall be exempt from taxation.    


CHAPTER V. Labour in Religious organizations and at their Enterprises

Article 22. Labour legal relations in religious organizations

The labour legislation of Turkmenistan shall apply to citizens employed with religious organizations and their enterprises based on a labour agreement (contract).  These citizens can become members of trade-unions.

Article 23.  Taxation of Citizens Employed with Religious Organizations

Incomes generated as a result of work in religious organizations and their enterprises and received by citizens, including clergymen, shall be subject to taxation at the same rates fixed for workers and officers of state enterprises, agencies and organizations of Turkmenistan.    


Article 24.  Social Security and Social Insurance of Citizens Employed with Religious Organizations and their Enterprises

Citizens of Turkmenistan, including clergymen, employed with religious organizations and their enterprises shall be covered by the social security system and social insurance on a par with workers and officers of state enterprises, agencies and organizations of Turkmenistan.
For these purposes, religious organizations and their enterprises shall make financial transfers to the state social insurance system under the procedure and on the amount established for state enterprises, agencies and organizations and also assist in concluding voluntary pension insurance agreements by citizens under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan.
All citizens employed with religious organizations and their enterprises shall be entitled to state pensions to be granted and paid on a general basis in accordance with the legislation of Turkmenistan.


CHAPTER VI.  Control and Oversight over Activities of Religious Organizations

Article 25.  Control and Oversight over Activities of Religious Organizations

The Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan shall exercise control for compliance of activities of religious organizations with their charter goals. The Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan shall have the right to request constituent documents from the governing bodies of religious organizations; to send their representatives for participation in events organized by religious organizations; to receive explanations from members of religious organizations and other citizens regarding the observance of their charters; and to issue a written warning to the governing bodies of religious organizations indicating reasons for issuing such a warning, if violation of the legislation of Turkmenistan by religious organizations has been revealed or they have committed acts contradictory to their charter goals.
The Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan shall cancel the registration if religious organization has switched mainly to business activities or if achieving the charter goals has become impossible. 
If within one year a religious organization has received more than two written warnings or instructions to eliminate the [revealed] violations or if it fails to provide within a year the Ministry of Justice with new information subject to registration, the Ministry may lodge a request with a court of justice for liquidation of this religious organization.
The Prosecutor General of Turkmenistan and subordinate prosecutors shall exercise oversight over the execution of the legislation on religious freedom and religious organizations.
Financial and tax authorities shall exercise control over the sources of income of religious organizations, over the amounts of funds that they receive and payment of taxes and levies in accordance with the legislation of Turkmenistan.
Under a procedure established by the legislation of Turkmenistan, the Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan shall provide the authorized state body with the information about projects and programs of foreign technical, financial and humanitarian assistance and grants if their amount exceeds a fixed threshold amount or they are not typical for the organization receiving such assistance.
Ecological, fire safety, sanitary-epidemiological and other authorities entrusted with control and oversight functions may exercise control and oversight over the observance of existing norms and standards by religious associations.


Article 26. Responsibility for Violating the Legislation of Turkmenistan on Religious Freedom and Religious Organizations

State officials and citizens of Turkmenistan or any other persons guilty of violating the legislation on religious freedom and religious organizations shall bear responsibility in accordance with the legislation of Turkmenistan.


CHAPTER VII. Final Provisions

Article 27. Final Provisions

Charters and other constituent documents of religious organizations, which were created before this Law comes into effect, shall be brought in line with this Law.
The Law of Turkmenistan “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations in Turkmenistan” adopted on 29 May 29 1991 with subsequent changes and additions shall be deemed invalid from the day when this Law comes into effect. 

 

President of Turkmenistan     Saparmurat Turkmenbashi


The City of Ashgabat
21 October 2003
No. 199-II