Lithuanian MPs vote down proposal to grant state recognition to neo-pagans

  • 2023-09-19
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday voted down a proposal to grant state recognition to Romuva, a religious association that says it practices an ancient Baltic pagan faith.

The proposal to grant recognition to Romuva failed to pass the second reading with 48 MPs voting in favor, 31 voting against and 30 abstaining, and was finally rejected in a further vote on whether or not to send the draft resolution to the lead committee for improving.

Tomas Vytautas Raskevicius, chairman of the Seimas Committee on Human Rights, said he would table an alternative draft resolution during the Seimas' evening session so that the parliament could formally refuse to grant this recognition.

"The law obliges the Seimas to make a decision one way or the other, either to recognize or not to recognize," the Freedom Party's MP told BNS.

"Since the Seimas rejected the resolution to recognize, we will submit a draft resolution to not recognize, and if the religious association does not agree with the Seimas' decision, it will be able to appeal it," he said.  

During Tuesday's debate, MP Rita Tamasuniene of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania-Christian Families Alliance said that while she appreciates Romuva's nurturing of ethnic culture, she cannot agree to it being treated as a religion. 

"Europe was built on the foundation of Christianity, and all democratic values came from Christian Europe. Lithuania was one of the last to join this community, and now perhaps it's time for revenge after 600 years, because a decision is coming from Strasbourg to level everything out, to do a lot for everyone, and about nothing," she said.

Agne Sirinskiene, head of the political group of non-attached MPs, noted that the parliament is dealing not only with the recognition of a religious community, but also with a legal issue.

She warned her fellow MPs "not to wake up with a second case at the European Court of Human Rights". 

The parliament several years ago failed to adopt a resolution to grant state recognition to Romuva. The association then took the matter to the European Court of Human Rights and won the case.

Under the law, non-traditional religious associations can be recognized by the state as part of Lithuania's historical, spiritual, and social heritage if they have public support and their teachings and rites do not contradict the law and morality.

State recognition means that the state supports the spiritual, cultural, and social heritage of religious associations.

A religious association may apply for state recognition no sooner than 25 years after its initial registration in Lithuania.