Vietnam Tightening Religious Freedom

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HANOI, Vietnam, JULY 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A newly adopted bill that regulates religious practices is worse than the one adopted in the 1950s by Ho Chi Minh, says a Vietnamese cardinal.



The new law, as of Nov. 15, requires stricter terms and conditions for registering religious organizations and associations. It also bans people in prison from presiding over religious ceremonies.

The statute was six years in the making and has six chapters and 41 articles. The first approved draft of the bill, presented in December 2000, caused negative reactions among clergy and bishops.

Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, stated unofficially that it would be better if the newly approved legislation had been dropped. He said the new law is worse than the one adopted in 1955, though the earlier statute was never implemented.

Government authorities have said that the new law, approved by the National Assembly, helps religious practice. But sources in Hanoi told the AsiaNews agency that in reality the new regulations are more restrictive of religious freedom.

The Communist government does not allow the direct naming of bishops. It insists that the Holy See present several nominees, among which the government chooses the candidate.