14 Rev. Socialist L. 265 (1988)
The Institutional Church and Religious Discrimination in Soviet Law

handle is hein.journals/rsl14 and id is 271 raw text is: 14 Review of Socialist Law 1988 No.3, 265-291
© 1988 Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht. Printed in The Netherlands.  265
THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH AND RELIGIOUS
DISCRIMINATION IN SOVIET LAW
GER P. VAN DEN BERG
Senior Legal Research Officer, Documentation Office for East European Law
1. Introduction
Freedom of religion includes not only the freedom to practice the religion of
one's choice, but also the right to associate in groups for the common profes-
sion of one's belief, to have these groups organized over a wider territory and
to build institutions which together form the institutional church. In the
published laws of the Soviet state references to an institutional church are
rare, but this may also be the case in other legal systems all over the world.
In many countries, an institutional church is created on the basis of the law
on organizations or of the proclaimed freedom to organize in associations of
one's choosing and not on the basis of a proclaimed freedom of religion. In
other countries, the law hardly deals with this institutional church, but the
churches use the instruments offered by the law governing relations between
citizens (e.g., civil law). Where a church has a certain institutional form, it
will be a juridical person or it will create organizations which have legal per-
sonality to administer its property, to conclude contracts, etc. The question
of whether contracts concluded by these organizations with certain persons
for the performance of given activities on a regular basis have to be con-
sidered as contracts of employment, rarely arises, although it does seem
possible that, for example, a church might not wish its contract with a priest
to have the form of a contract of employment.
2. Soviet Law and the Institutional Church
2.1 Legal Personality
The decree of the RSFSR Council of People's Commissars of 23 January (5
February) 1918 On the Separation of the Church from the State and the
School from the Church deprived all religious societies of legal personali-

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