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THE STANDING COMMITTEE OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
No: 21/2004/PL-UBTVQH11
SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF VIET NAM
Independence - Freedom - Happiness
Ha Noi, day 29 month 06 year 2004                          

ORDINANCE

ON BELIEFS AND RELIGIONS

(No. 21/2004/PL-UBTVQH11)

Pursuant to the 1992 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which was amended and supplemented under Resolution No. 51/2001/QH10 of December 25, 2001 of the Xth National Assembly, the 10th session;

Pursuant to Resolution No. 21/2003/QH11 of November 26, 2003 of the XIth National Assembly, the 4th session, on the 2004 law- and ordinance-making program;

This Ordinance prescribes belief and religious activities.

Chapter I

GENERAL PROVISIONS

Article 1. Citizens have the right to belief and religious freedom, following or not following any religion

The State guarantees citizens' right to belief and religious freedom. Nobody can infringe upon such freedom right.

All religions are equal before law.

Citizens, whether they have beliefs, follow religions or not, as well as citizens who have different beliefs or follow different religions must respect one another.

Article 2. Religious dignitaries, priests, monks and citizens who have beliefs or follow religions enjoy all civic rights and have to perform the civic obligations

Religious dignitaries, priests and monks have to regularly educate followers in patriotism, exercise of the civic rights, performance of the civic obligations and the sense of law observance.

Article 3. In this Ordinance, the following terms and phrases shall be construed as follows:

1. Belief activities mean activities demonstrating the ancestral worship, commemoration and honoring of the persons with merits to the country and/or communities; worship of deities, saints or traditional idols, and other folk belief activities representing the fine values of history, culture and social ethics.

2. Belief establishments mean places where communal belief activities are carried out, including communal houses, temples, small temples, small pagodas, ancestral worship altars, clan ancestor worship houses and the like.

3. Religious organizations mean groups of believers in the same system of religious tenets, principles and rites, which are organized according to a certain structure recognized by the State.

4. Grassroots religious organizations mean grassroots units of religious organizations, including pagoda protection boards or pagoda management boards of Buddhism, dioceses of Catholicism, chapters of Protestantism, religious clans of Caodaism, commune, ward or district township administration boards of Hoa Hao Buddhism sect, and grassroots units of other religious organizations.

5. Religious activities mean the preaching and practice of tenets, principles and rites and organizational management of religions.

6. Religious societies mean a form of rallying followers, set up by religious organizations in service of religious activities.

7. Religious establishments mean places for worship, religious practice or training of professional religious activists, head offices of religious organizations and other establishments of religions recognized by the State.

8. Followers mean persons who believe in a religion and are recognized by religious organizations.

9. Priests or monks mean followers who voluntarily and constantly effect a particular lifestyle according to the tenets and principles of a religion in which they believe.

10. Dignitaries mean followers who hold specific positions or ranks in religions.

Article 4. Pagodas, churches, chancels, sanctuaries, communal houses, temples, small temples and head offices of religious organizations and training establishments of religious organizations, other lawful belief or religious establishments, canons and worshipping objects are protected by law.

Article 5. The State guarantees the right to conduct belief activities and religious activities according to law provisions; respects cultural values and religious ethics; preserves and promotes positive values of the tradition of ancestral worship, commemoration and honoring of the persons with merits to the country or communities, in order to contribute to consolidating the great national unity bloc and satisfy the people's spiritual needs.

Article 6. Relationships between the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and foreign countries as well as international organizations regarding religion-related issues must be based on the principle of respect for each other's independence and sovereignty, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual interests, in conformity with each party's laws, international laws and practices.

Article 7.

1. Vietnam Fatherland Front and its member organizations shall, within the ambit of their tasks and powers, have the responsibility:

a/ To rally people who have beliefs or follow religions as well as non-belief or non-religious people for building up the great national unity bloc, constructing and defending the Fatherland.

b/ To promptly report the people's opinions, aspirations and requests on matters related to beliefs and religions to competent State agencies;

c/ To take part in propagating among and mobilizing dignitaries, priests, monks, followers, persons who have beliefs, religious organizations and people to observe the law provisions on beliefs and religions;

d/ To participate in the formulation and supervision of the implementation of policies and laws on beliefs and religions.

2. Within the ambit of their tasks and powers, the State agencies shall take initiative in coordinating with Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee and the Front's member organizations in propagating, mobilizing and implementing policies and laws on beliefs and religions.

Article 8.

1. It is prohibited to make discriminations for belief or religious reasons; or infringe upon the citizens' right of belief and religious freedom.

2. It is prohibited to abuse the right of belief and religious freedom to undermine peace, national independence and unification; incite violence or propagate wars, conduct propagation in contraven-tion of the State's laws and policies; divide people, nationalities or religions; cause public disorder, infringe upon the life, health, dignity, honor and/or property of others, or impede the exercise of civic rights and performance of civic obligations; conduct superstitious activities or other acts of law violation.

Chapter II

BELIEF ACTIVITIES OF BELIEVERS AND RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES OF FOLLOWERS, PRIESTS, MONKS AND DIGNITARIES

Article 9.

1. Believers and followers can freely show their faiths, practice worship or praying rites, join in ritual activities or services and religious rites, and learn tenets of religions in which they believe.

2. In belief or religious activities, believers and followers shall have to respect the right to belief and religious freedom and the right to non-belief and non-religious freedom of other people; exercise their right to belief and religious freedom without impeding the exercise of their civic rights and performance of their civic obligations; and conduct belief or religious activities in strict compliance with law provisions.

Article 10. Persons who join in belief or religious activities must observe regulations of belief or religious establishments or rituals as well as village codes and communal conventions.

Article 11.

1. Dignitaries, priests and monks can perform religious rites within the scope of their charge, and preach or teach religions at religious establishments.

2. In cases where they perform religious rites, preach or teach religions at variance with the provisions of Clause 1 of this Article, they must obtain approvals of the People's Committees of rural districts, urban districts, provincial capitals or provincial towns (hereinafter referred collectively to as district-level People's Committees) where they shall conduct such activities.

Article 12.

1. Persons in charge of grassroots religious establishments shall have to register annual programs of religious activities to take place at their establishments with the People's Committees of communes, wards or district townships (hereinafter referred collectively to as commune-level People's Committees); where religious activities are organized outside the registered programs, approvals of competent State agencies are required.

2. Competence to approve the organization of belief festivals shall be prescribed by the Government.

Article 13.

1. Persons who are serving imprisonment sentences or on probation according to law provisions shall not be allowed to preside over religious rites, preach, or teach religions, manage the religious organizations and preside over belief festivals.

2. For persons who have completely served penalties or administrative handling measures mentioned in Clause 1 of this Article, they shall be allowed to preside over religious rites, do missionary work, to teach religions or manage religious organizations only after having their activities registered by religious organizations and approved by competent State agencies.

Article 14. Belief or religious activities must be safe, thrifty, compatible with the national traditions and cultural identity, and preserve and protect the environment.

Article 15. Belief or religious activities shall be stopped in one of the following cases:

1. They infringe upon the national security, seriously affect the public order or environment;

2. They adversely affect the people's unity, the fine national cultural traditions;

3. They infringe upon life, health, dignity, honor or property of other persons.

4. They involve other serious law violation acts.

Chapter III

RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS AND OPERATION THEREOF

Article 16.

1. An organization shall be recognized as a religious organization when it fully meets the following conditions:

a/ Being an organization of persons having the same belief, having religious tenets, principles and rites, which are not contrary to the nation's fine traditions, customs and interests;

b/ Having a charter or statute expressing its guidelines, objectives and way of religious practice, closely associated with the nation and not contrary to law provisions;

c/ Having registered religious activities and conducting stable religious activities;

d/ Having a head office, organizational structure and lawful representative;

e/ Having an appellation not identical to that of another religious organization already recognized by the competent State agency.

2. Competence to recognize religious organizations:

a/ The Prime Minister recognizes religious organizations having the scope of operation in many provinces and/or centrally-run cities;

b/ The presidents of the People's Committees of the provinces or centrally-run cities recognize religious organizations having the scope of operation mainly in a province or centrally-run city.

3. The registration of religious activities is prescribed at Point c, Clause 1 of this Article; religious activities of the registered organizations and the order and procedures for recognizing religious organizations shall be prescribed by the Government.

Article 17.

1. Religious organizations can establish, divide, separate, merge or amalgamate their attached organizations according to their respective charters or statutes.

2. The establishment, division, separation, merger or amalgamation of grassroots religious organizations must be approved by the People's Committees of the provinces or centrally-run cities (hereinafter referred to as the provincial-level People's Committees).

3. The establishment, division, separation, merger or amalgamation of religious organizations not falling into the cases prescribed in Clause 2 of this Article must be approved by the Prime Minister.

Article 18.

1. Conferences or congresses of grassroots religious organizations shall be organized after they are approved by the People's Committees of districts, where such conferences or congresses take place.

2. Religious organizations' conferences or congresses at the central level or of the entire religious sects shall be held after they are approved by the central-level agencies in charge of State management over religions.

3. Religious organizations' conferences or congresses not falling into the cases prescribed in Clauses 1 and 2 of this Article shall be held after they are approved by the provincial-level People’s Committees of the localities, where such conferences or congresses take place.

Article 19.

1. Religious societies shall be allowed to operate after religious organizations register them with competent State agencies.

2. The registration of religious societies is prescribed as follows:

a/ Religious societies having the scope of operation within a rural district, urban district, provincial capital or provincial town shall be registered with the district-level People's Committees of localities where they operate;

b/ Religious societies having the scope of operation in many rural districts, urban districts, provincial capitals and/or provincial towns shall be registered with the provincial-level People's Committees of localities where they operate;

c/ Religious societies having the scope of operation in many provinces and/or centrally-run cities shall be registered with the central-level agencies in charge of State management over religions.

Article 20. Religious orders, monasteries and other collective religious practice organizations shall be allowed to operate after they have been registered with competent State agencies.

The registration of operations of religious orders, monasteries and other collective religious practice organizations shall comply with the regulations applicable to religious societies prescribed in Clause 2, Article 19 of this Ordinance.

Article 21.

1. Persons who enter into religion at religious establishments must do so at their own free will without being compelled or obstructed by any other person. Minors who wish to enter into religion must be consented by their parents or guardians.

2. Persons in charge of religious establishments, when admitting persons wishing to enter into religion, shall have to register them with the commune-level People's Committees of the localities where their religious establishments are located.

Article 22.

1. The ordainment, bestowal of orders, appointment, election or honorary nomination in religions shall be effected according to charters or statutes of religious organizations and must satisfy the conditions prescribed in Clause 2 of this Article. For cases involving foreign elements, there must be prior agreements with the central-level agencies in charge of State management over religions.

2. Persons who are ordained, bestowed orders, appointed, elected or honorarily nominated must satisfy the following conditions before being recognized by the State:

a/ Being Vietnamese citizens, having good ethical qualities;

b/ Having spirit of national unity and harmony;

c/ Strictly observing law.

3. The dismissal or discharge of religious dignitaries shall comply with the charters or statutes of religious organizations.

4. Religious organizations shall have the responsibility to register the ordained, order-bestowed, appointed, elected or honorarily nominated persons; notify the dismissal or discharge of religious dignitaries to competent State management agencies.

Article 23. When transferring religious dignitaries, priests or monks to other areas of operation, religious organizations shall have the responsibility to notify such to the district-level People's Committees of the localities where they leave and register them with the district-level People's Committees of the localities where they move to.

For dignitaries, priests or monks who have violated the religious legislation and been administratively handled by presidents of the provincial-level People's Committees or criminally handled, their transfer to other places of religious activities must also be approved by the provincial-level People's Committees of the localities where they move to according to the Government's regulations.

Article 24.

1. Religious organizations may establish training schools or open fostering classes for professional religious activists.

2. The establishment of schools for training professional religious activists must be approved by the Prime Minister.

The enrollment of students of religious training schools must comply with the principles of publicity and free will of enrollees and the schools' approved operation charters.

The Vietnamese history and Vietnamese law shall be the curricular study subjects in the training programs of schools training professional religious activists.

3. The opening of fostering classes for professional religious activists must be approved by the presidents of the provincial-level People's Committees of the localities where such courses are opened.

4. The order and procedures for establishing or dissolving training schools or opening religious fostering classes shall be prescribed by the Government.

Article 25. Religious organizations' rites occurring outside religious establishments shall comply with the following regulations:

1. Rites participated by followers within a rural district, urban district, provincial capital or provincial town must be approved by the district-level People's Committees of localities where such rites take place;

2. Rites participated by followers from many rural districts, urban districts, provincial capitals and/or provincial towns within a province or centrally-run city or from many provinces and/or centrally-run cities must be approved by the provincial-level People's Committees of the localities where such rites take place.

Chapter IV

ASSETS OF BELIEF OR RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES OF RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS, FOLLOWERS, PRIESTS, MONKS AND DIGNITARIES

Article 26. Lawful assets belonging to belief or religious establishments shall be protected by law. It is strictly prohibited to infringe upon such assets.

Article 27.

1. Land, where exist works used by religious establishments, including land pertaining to pagodas, churches, sanctuaries, chancels, monasteries, schools training professional religious activists, head offices of religious organizations and other establishments of religions permitted by the State to operate, shall be used in a stable and long-term manner.

2. Land with works being communal houses, temples, small temples, small pagodas, ancestral worship altars and clan ancestor worship houses thereon shall be used in a stable and long-term manner.

3. The management and use of land prescribed in Clauses 1 and 2 of this Article shall comply with the provisions of the land legislation.

Article 28.

1. Belief establishments and religious organizations may raise funds or receive assets voluntarily donated by organizations and individuals at home and abroad according to law provisions.

2. The fund raising by belief establishments and religious organizations must be organized publicly with clear use purposes and must be notified in advance to the People's Committees of the localities where the fund raising is organized.

3. It is prohibited to take advantage of the fund raising to seek personal interests or pursue illegal objectives.

Article 29. Belief or religious activities at belief or religious establishments being historical-cultural relics, scenic places or beauty spots are ensured to take place normally as at other belief or religious establishments.

The management, use, renovation and upgrading of works belonging to belief or religious establishments being historical-cultural relics, scenic places or beauty spots shall comply with the provisions of the legislation on cultural heritage and relevant legislations.

Article 30. The renovation or upgrading of existing works belonging to belief or religious establishments or building of the new ones must comply with the law provisions on construction.

The change of the use purposes of works belonging to belief establishments must be approved by the district-level People's Committees. The change of the use purposes of works of religious establishments must be approved by the provincial-level People's Committees.

Article 31. For the relocation of works belonging to belief or religious establishments due to requirements of socio-economic development plannings, the representatives of such belief or religious establishments must be notified and consulted in advance and compensations therefor shall be made according to law provisions.

Article 32. The publishing, printing and distribution of prayer books, other belief or religious books, newspapers, magazines and publications; the trade in, export and import of cultural products on beliefs or religions; the production of articles in service of belief or religious activities must comply with law provisions.

Article 33.

1. The State encourages and creates conditions for religious organizations to take part in bringing up and educating disadvantaged children; to provide assistance to healthcare establishments for the poor, the disabled, HIV/AIDS-infected persons, lepers, mental patients; to provide assistance for development of pre-school educational establishments, and take part in other activities for charity or humanitarian purposes in compliance with their charters or statutes and law provisions.

2. Dignitaries, priests or monks, in their capacity as citizens, are encouraged by the State to organize educational, healthcare, charity or humanitarian activities according to law provisions.

Chapter V

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS OF RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS, FOLLOWERS, PRIESTS, MONKS AND DIGNITARIES

Article 34. Religious organizations, followers, priests, monks and dignitaries may conduct international relation activities according to the provisions of their charters, statutes or principles and in compliance with Vietnamese law.

When conducting international relation activities, religious organizations, followers, priests, monks and dignitaries must be on equal footing, respect one another, respect independence, sovereignty and internal affairs of the countries.

Article 35. The following international relation activities must be approved by the central-level agencies in charge of State management over religions:

1. Inviting foreign organizations or foreigners into Vietnam or organizing the execution of undertakings of foreign religious organizations in Vietnam;

2. Participating in religious activities or sending persons to join religious training courses overseas.

Article 36. Dignitaries, priests or monks being foreigners may preach at Vietnamese religious establishments after being approved by the central-level agency in charge of the State management over religions, and must observe regulations of Vietnamese religious organizations and Vietnamese law provisions.

Article 37. Foreigners, when entering Vietnam, must comply with the Vietnamese laws; are allowed to carry along religious publications and other religious articles to serve their personal needs according to provisions of Vietnamese laws; are given favorable conditions for their daily religious activities at religious establishments like Vietnamese religious followers; are allowed to invite Vietnamese religious dignitaries to perform religious ceremonies for them; and must observe regulations of Vietnamese religious organizations.

Chapter VI

IMPLEMENTATION PROVISIONS

Article 38. In cases where international agreements which the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has signed or acceded to contain provisions different from those of this Ordinance, the provisions of such international agreements shall apply.

Article 39.

1. Religious organizations which have been recognized by competent State agencies before the effective date of this Ordinance shall not have to carry out the procedures for re-recognition.

2. Religious societies, religious orders, monasteries and other collective religious practice organizations, which have been registered and permitted for operation before the effective date of this Ordinance, shall not have to carry out the procedures for re-registration.

Article 40. This Ordinance takes effect as from November 15, 2004.

Article 41. The Government shall detail and guide the implementation of this Ordinance.

THE STANDING COMMITTEE OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
CHAIRMAN
(signed)
 
Nguyen Van An