Press Releases

The Court of Arbitration of the North Caucasian District Dismisses Appeal of the Administration of Vladikavkaz Which Refused to Transfer Ownership of a Church Building to the Baptist Church

26 May 2009

The Court of Arbitration of the North Caucasian District has dismissed the appeal of the Administration of Vladikavkaz which refused to transfer ownership of a church building on Tengin Street to a Church of Evangelical Christian Baptists (ECB) “Grace” (a church belonging to the ECB Union), reports the press service of the Slavic Center for Law and Justice.
 
In the filings of the Federal Court of Arbitration of the North Caucasian District under F08-2195/2009 dated May 22, 2009, it has been specifically recorded:  “To affirm the decision and/or ruling on the case of the appellant, and the writ of appeal is dismissed (P. 1 L. 1 P. 287 APK).”
 
We remind our readers that the Vladikavkaz City Property Management Committee refused to transfer ownership of a church building to “Grace,” a member of the union of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches, because it did not classify the church building as a ceremonial building.
 
On January 11, 2009, the Court of Arbitration of the Republic of North Ossetia Alania ruled in acknowledgement that the actions of the Vladikavkaz City Property Management Committee were not in accordance with Federal Law 125-F3 “Concerning freedom of conscience and religious associations (P. 3 P. 21).”  The court ordered the Administration of Vladikavkaz to transfer ownership of the church building to the Church of the ECB.  In March 2009, the Property Management Committee appealed the decision of the Court of Arbitration.
 
Back in September 2008, A. D. Samoshkin, presbyter of the Church of the ECB, went to the administration of Vladikavkaz requesting that it transfer ownership of the building and the land parcel to the ecclesia.  The church cited Federal Law 125-F3 “Concerning freedom of conscience and religious associations (P. 3 P. 21)” which requires that the transfer of property to religious organizations in the form of ceremonial buildings with functional purposes and structures along with all relative land parcels and, occasionally, property of a religious nature previously under government or municipal ownership be completed immediately.
 
In November 2008, M. A. Mil’dzikhov, chairman of the Vladikavkaz City Property Management Committee, refused to transfer ownership of the church building on the grounds that the building being used by the ecclesia was not ceremonial based on the contract made in 2000.  The official noted that the church was allegedly engaged in activities creating income – specifically publishing.  The administration’s refusal was appealed by the church of the ECB.
 
The writ of appeal of the Vladikavkaz City Property Management Committee contains inaccurate information alleging that the church building was initially classified as residential, even though it was nationalized in 1924 as a church property; it was built in 1912 and was used as a house of prayer by Greek Christians.
 
The Baptist Church has been using the building on Tengin Street as a church building since 1945.  Again, the Ordzhonikidzev Executive Committee transferred it to the church for indefinite and immediate use under contracts made from 1945 to 1957.  The building has always been used for religious purposes.  As noted by A. D. Samoshkin, presbyter of the Church of the ECB, the church obtained the building in a dilapidated condition, and the ecclesia remodeled it.  Worship services are regularly conducted in the church building, and Sunday school is held there every week for both children and adult members.  Moreover, according to the presbyter, the Church of the ECB is not involved with publishing nor any other kind of activity which would create income.
 
T. Kasaev, Minister of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania Ministry for Nationalities, has come out in support of the church of the ECB.  In his written opinion based on the definition of the Court of Arbitration of the Republic, Kasaev reports that the Church of the ECB is indeed engaged exclusively with the administration of religious ordinances, does not have its own publishing department, and is not engaged in any commercial activity.  The church building is only designed and used for the administration of ceremonial ordinances.  As pointed out by the minister, the Baptists celebrated their 130th anniversary in Osetia in 2008.  In December, 2008, having examined the treatment of the Church, the Commission of Affairs of Religious Associations under the Government of the Republic of Seychelles-Alania concluded that “the controversial building ownership should be transferred to the Church of the ECB ‘Grace.’”
 
Meanwhile, the position of the administration of Vladikavkaz led to a paradoxical situation when the church building, which had always been ecclesial and used by the authorities for ceremonial purposes, became “non-ceremonial” after the request was made to transfer the ownership.  The exterior of the building has the appearance of church-like construction and does not have any living quarters.  It is also not a historical or cultural monument.  Therefore, the actions of the Administration of the City of Vladikavkaz appear to be more likely a measured and groundless attempt to discriminate against the Baptist Church.

 

 
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