The Justice Ministry and the Home Office completed amendments to the Business Register Act that would lift the ban on members of congregations from being listed in public databases, including those who have attended general assemblies where decisions that should be reflected in the register of religious associations are created.
The Council of Churches finds the plan insane and in violation of religious freedom.
EKN chairman Andres PÃµder writes in a letter to justice and home affairs ministers that the council is against the repeal of Article 15, paragraph 4 of the Churches and Congregations Act.
The latter currently provides that the minutes of meetings of the General Assembly or other bodies, lists of participants or any other document concerning members of religious organizations cannot be entered in the register of religious associations when the data is modified.
The article was added in 2017 and repealing it would cause some issues to reappear, according to EKN.
âThe question concerns the nature of religious freedom and is based on the principle set forth in article 42 of the Constitution that the state cannot collect information against a person’s will regarding his or her beliefs (including religious beliefs and affiliation), âPÃµder wrote.
The new bill would also repeal section 18 of the Churches and Congregations Act according to which member information is not included in the public registers of religious associations. Only people with a legitimate interest determined by a notary can currently access this data.
“With regard to Article 18, the regulations should ensure that existing and new lists of members of religious associations (even if the law does not require the latter) will not become in the public domain,” PÃµder added.
Ministry of Justice: documents containing lists of members will not be accessible to the public
The ERR has been informed by the Justice Department that the plan is to go ahead with the bill in its current form.
âRequests for changes to the register should include a record of the decision and the body that took it. This report does not have to be complete and an extract will suffice. A list of members who attended the meeting should be attached. this will allow the clerk to assess whether the decision was made in accordance with the law and the rules specified in the statutes, âsaid Kertu Laadoga, public relations advisor for the ministry.
She added that the plan is to stick with the version of the bill which will see documents including lists of members involved in making decisions about religious associations stored in a registry file that is only accessible to if a legitimate interest can be established.
âThe same file contains changes filed before 2018. Similar documents from other legal entities will remain in the public domain where anyone can access them for a fee,â Laadoga said.
She explained that one of the main changes introduced by the amendment is the harmonization of the regulation of the register of legal persons under private law.
“For this purpose, the register of NGOs and foundations (supplemented by sub-registers for religious associations, trade unions, apartment associations, land improvement associations) will become a sub-register of the register of enterprises and will become subject to the regulations governing the latter, “the ministry said. .
The common register will cover all legal persons governed by private law, as well as self-employed workers. “This will apply the common keeping of the requirements, principles and organization of the register to all legal persons under private law,” added Laadoga.