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Armenia: Law On Religious Groups To Be Tightened

Yerevan, 11 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan yesterday dropped his objection to the parliament's proposed amendment to the law on religious organizations.

The amendment raises from 50 to 200 the minimum number of members a religious organization must have in order to be registered with the authorities. It also obliges all religious organizations wishing to register to submit a complete list of their believers before they can operate legally in Armenia.

Gegham Gharibjanyan, chairman of the parliament's committee on social affairs and one of the authors of the amendment, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Yerevan that the amendment is aimed at clarifying "which of the religious groups are engaged in schismatic, and which of them in serious activities."

He said the tightening of the law will enable the authorities to detect "malignant sects" and is not directed against traditional religious organizations.

According to Gharibjanyan, there has been no reaction yet to the amendments from the Armenian Apostolic Church to which most Armenians belong. Gharibjanyan rejected fears about a possible negative reaction from the international community. He argued that the Armenian law is more liberal than the one adopted by the Russian State Duma and vetoed by President Boris Yeltsin.