Zelensky proposes banning Orthodox church linked to Moscow

It remains unclear whether the bill will run afoul of religious liberty protections in the Ukrainian Constitution.

Updated: December 2, 2022 - 8:17pm

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has proposed banning the Orthodox Church linked to Russia from operating inside Ukraine.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian leader said his administration would draft a law "making it impossible for religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation to operate in Ukraine," according to the New York Times.

He further called on the government to investigate the Moscow-aligned Orthodox church but did not specify whether the government ought to judge the church as a whole or parish by parish. It remains unclear whether the bill will run afoul of religious liberty protections in the Ukrainian Constitution.

Traditionally, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine was subordinate to the Russian patriarch in Moscow and many of Ukraine's Christians still adhere to this branch of the faith. However, a breakaway Orthodox Church headquartered in Kyiv has attracted growing support amid increasingly anti-Russian sentiment in the country.

Ukrainian officials have worried that the Moscow-aligned church is acting as a subversive element within the country. The Muscovite Patriarch, Kirill, is a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has lent his support to the ongoing invasion.

Russian officials condemned the announcement. Former President Dmitry Medvedev said "[t]he current Ukrainian authorities have openly become enemies of Christ and the Orthodox faith."