Law on Freedom of Conscience

Provisional Government, Law on Freedom of Conscience. July 14, 1917

Original Source: Sobranie uzakonenii i rasporiazhenii raboche-krestian’skogo pravitel’stva, 1917, No. 1:2, No. 1099.

In amendment to, and abrogation of, the relevant statutes, it is hereby decreed:

1. Every citizen of the Russian State is guaranteed freedom of conscience. Accordingly, the enjoyment of civil and political rights does not depend on any religious affiliation, and no one may be persecuted nor have any of his rights whatsoever restricted for his convictions in matters of faith.

2. The religious affiliation of minors under the age of nine is determined by their parents. In the absence of agreement on the part of the parents, minors follow the father’s religion. In cases of separate residence of the parents, children follow the religion of the parent with whom they live.

3. In case the parents are dead or unknown and it is impossible to establish the religious affiliation of minors under nine years of age, the religious affiliation of the minors is determined by their adoptive parents or guardians.

4. In order for persons who have reached the age of 14 to pass from one religion to another or to have it recognized that they are not affiliated with any faith, no authorization or declaration of any authority is required. Legal relations arising from affiliation with the given religion are ended by a written or oral statement to the local court by the person leaving a religion.

5. A statement received under the procedure mentioned in the preceding (4) article is communicated by the local court immediately to the parish or religious community with which the person was affiliated. The appropriate organ of local self-government is notified of persons who consider themselves unaffiliated with any faith.

6. Minors under the age of nine may be transferred to another religion at this time by both parents or by the surviving parent. If, however, one of the parents changes religion and there is no agreement between the parents, minors under the age of nine maintain their affiliation with their former religion.

7. The religion of minors over the age of nine may not be changed without their consent.

8. Civil documents of persons who are not affiliated with any religion are kept by organs of local self-government according to the rules contained in articles 39-51 of part 11 of the Imperial Ukase of October 17, 1906, concerning the procedure for the organization and functioning of Old Believers’ and sectarian communities and concerning the rights and duties of members of Old Believers’ communities and sectarians who have left the Orthodox Church (Collection of Laws, article 1728) .

9. The present rules do not apply to the fanatical teachings mentioned in article 96 of the Penal Code (Code of Laws, Vol. XV, ed. 1909).

10. The present law (articles 1-9) to be put into effect before its promulgation by the Ruling Senate. N. Nekrasov, Deputy Minister-President Saltykov, Assistant Minister, for the Minister of the Interior

Source: Robert Paul Browder and Alexander F. Kerensky, eds., The Russian Provisional Government, 1917: Documents (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961), Vol. I, 809-810.

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