What the Soviet Constitution Says About Freedom and Religion
The Constitution of the Soviet Union promises its citizens freedom of conscience and religion, as is obvious in this statement from Article 52 of the Soviet Constitution:
“Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda.”
Of course it does not mention here that the government will foment the production of atheistic propaganda, while harassing those who prefer to conduct religious worship. That would be removing the mask of governmental objectivity that the Soviet government would so like to retain. But the hidden falsehood of such a guarantee of freedom soon becomes clear as one examines other articles of the Soviet Constitution, which show how the Soviet political system was so open to religion-repressing laws like those of Josef Stalin.
From Article 6: “The leading and guiding force of Soviet society and the nucleus of its political system, of all state organizations and public organizations, is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union …. The Communist Party … determines … the course of the domestic and foreign policy of the USSR, directs the great constructive work of the Soviet people, and imparts a planned, systematic and theoretically substantiated character to their struggle for the victory of communism.”
From Article 3: “The Soviet state is organized and functions on the principle of democratic centralism …. Democratic centralism combines central leadership with local initiative and creative activity….”
From Article 39: “Enjoyment by citizens of their rights and freedoms must not be to the detriment of the interest of society or the state.”
From Article 59: “Citizens’ exercise of their rights and freedoms is inseparable from the performance of their duties and obligations.”
“Citizens of the USSR are obliged to observe the Constitution of the USSR and the Soviet laws, comply with the standards of socialist conduct, and uphold the honor and dignity of Soviet citizenship.”
Finally, from Article 50, a statement that echoes the U.S. Constitution—except for a few crucial additions: “In accordance with the interests of the people and in order to strengthen and develop the socialist system, citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly, meetings, street processions and of demonstralinn ” [all italics added—Eds.]
Copyright © 1988 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History magazine.
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