Challenges of the law are planned in the Constitutional Court and, potentially, the European Court of Human Rights.
"The promulgation of this law by President Basescu is a blatant attack on religious freedom and fundamental rights and demonstrates little if any move away from the previous Communist regimes which he had promised to move Romania during his campaign," stated Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski.
"President Basescu and the Romanian parliament have now gained for Romania the moniker of worst religion law in Europe."
The Law was rushed through parliament on December 13, 2006, and the presidential website reported that it was promulgated December 27.
Those monitoring the law in Romania report that Romanian media paid little attention to the law despite the procedural irregularities of its passage.
The new law conflicts with the Romanian Constitution and already existing laws, in addition to internationally recognized human rights instruments to which the Romanian Government is obligated to adhere.
The law establishes a series of qualifying standards which must be met in order to obtain the government’s preferential status. Membership requires 0.1% of the population of Romania: considering the country’s population, a group must consist of about 23,000 members to be eligible. This repressive threshold establishes Romania as the most restrictive religious registration system in Europe.
The law also creates a tiered system of religious communities, with different rights associated with respective levels. In a recent draft a religious group must wait twelve years before qualifying for and being accepted into the most preferential status, provoking marked disapproval from wide-ranging groups including Adventists, Baha’is Baptists, Greek Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
"The sudden rush to pass and now promulgate this legislation raises serious questions regarding Romania’s recent positive movement toward democracy and protection of fundamental human rights," concluded Mr. Grieboski. "Romania can no longer be considered a friend to freedom of religion, as it had so long been."