Church-State Relations

A program of Moscow Theological Seminary and the Institute for Religion and Law

  • Study: part-time
  • Duration: 1 year – 2 sessions for 1 week; total program is 74 academic hours
  • Program Chair: Anatoly Pchelintsev – Co-Chair of the Slavic Legal Center, the chief editor of “Religion and Law,” Professor RGGU
  • Dean: Inna Zagrebina – Lawyer, researcher of the Institute of Religion and Law.

Program Description

Begun in May 2011 and unique in Russia, the training program “Church-State Relations” is vital to the church in Russia, allowing trainees to learn the basic theoretical propositions of state law and state-confessional relations, as well as gain the skills to work with existing international and domestic legislation. A distinctive feature of the course is its practical orientation, defined by the coverage of the legal issues that often face religious organizations in their daily activities. This course enables learners to improve their understanding of Russian law as well as  build relationships with representatives of local governments, various officials and representatives of other faiths.

The program is offered in Moscow and at its newest venue is the Golgotha Church Center. The Seminary has received numerous requests for the material in this program from the most remote regions of Russia, so the program is now also offered as an online course.  The course opened in January 2012 with 18 students.

Why Do Church Leaders Need to Learn about Religion and Law?

In 2009, MTS started the first of two programs in religion and law: one for church administrators to guide them in the proper understanding of the official documentation required of churches; and the second, for church bookkeepers and financial managers regarding required governmental documents. In both cases, the questions often revolve around government officials wanting more detailed information than the law requires. Both of these programs have been widely received.

Russia is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state. Its territory is inhabited by many peoples with their traditions and beliefs. As a consequence, the religious factor has a significant impact on social processes in our country. In the past 10-15 years, the church has recognized an urgent demand to improve legal literacy as clerics encounter xenophobia and religious intolerance. Legal issues the church in Russia deals with include:

  • protecting the rights of believers and religious associations
  • property and land relations
  • protection of honor, dignity and business reputation as the Ministry of Justice has declared many religious organizations “extremist activity”

Currently, Russia has more than 100 federal laws regarding the activities of religious associations. And that’s not counting many additional decrees, regulations, instructions and orders by various federal and local authorities. At the same time, there are very few lawyers specializing in this subject.


Topics include:

  • General characteristics of branches of Russian law
  • Current aspects of the legal regulation of freedom of conscience in the CIS countries
  • History of state-confessional relations
  • The legal status of religious associations
  • Taxation of religious organizations, tax control and tax liability
  • Legal regulation of property relations of religious organization
  • Issues of labor and family law for religious organizations
  • Protecting the rights of religious organizations in conducting audits.
  • Freedom of conscience in the Armed Forces, military prisoners and prisons
  • The constitutional right to refuse military service and belief; Alternative civilian service
  • Religion, media and the law
  • Legal protection of freedom of conscience and religious associations
  • Legal responsibility for an offense related to the infringement of freedom of conscience
  • The sociology of religious life in Russia

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