The Lithuanian parliament, Seimas, has refused to grant state recognition to a neo-pagan group Romuva on June 27, 2019. Members who claim to be adherents to an ancient Baltic belief are instead planning to turn to the European Court of Human Rights, and has on Tuesday published a petition calling on Seimas to reverse its decision.
“People who are not Christian are losing their rights as citizens in this country,” professor and religious scholar Milda Ališauskienė has commented on LRT radio.
Even though the Justice Ministry has agreed Romuva is an important part of Lithuanian cultural and religious life, the parliament has refused to grant recognition to the neo-pegan group.
If declared an official religious group, Romuva would have received land tax rebates, their priests would have received social insurance, and their wedding ceremonies would receive the same status as the ones done in any metrication institution.
According to Romuva priestess Inija Trinkūnienė, the Lithuanian parliament has violated human rights, as they fulfill all requirements set by the state.
“The requirements involve a period of operating time in Lithuania, education,” a positive connection between “ceremonies and the law, as well as public support,” she said. “I have the Justice Ministry conclusion, where it states clearly we fulfil all the requirements.”
Ališauskienė claimed the parliament’s decision was politicized, as the Justice Ministry’s conclusion is ignored. She also said that at present, only Chrstian communities have managed to be recognized.
Romuva published a petition on Tuesday, claiming the “ancient Balt religious community Romuva has since 1967 dedicated” full attention “to strengthening the Lithuanian identity”.
It then called to enact “historic justice and give respect to all who brought the ancient Balt belief to the present day”.
Conservative MP Andrius Navickas, who voted against Romuva becoming a recognised religion on June 27, said “to me and my colleagues, it seemed that the decision would have brought only confusion”.
According to Navickas, Romuva propagates anti-Christian worldview by claiming to restore “what Christianity has destroyed”.
During the 2001 census, 1,200 people declared themselves pagan. In 2011, the number rose to 5,100.
After being refused the first time, the community has to wait 10 years before reapplying again.
“How should they feel, when they see MPs speak about confusion and tension [...] these discussions remind me of sexual and ethnic minorities’ situation, that also allegedly causes a lot of confusion” in the society, said the professor.
According to an MP from the ruling Greens and Farmers Union group, Robertas Šarknicks, Seimas has humiliated Romuva.
“The Constitution was violated – a religious organization is discriminated against and slandered, and even accused of links with the KGB. In such cases, a community or a part of the MPs have the complete right to turn to the Constitutional Court, or European Court of Human Rights,” said Šarknickas.
According Ališauskienė, there has been tension between Romuva community and Christians for some time.
Romuva community has previously said they will turn to the European Court of Human Rights, while the petition published on Tuesday calls for Seimas to reconsider its previous decision.
Lithuania has no official state religion.