Bishop Stankevičs on VID raids: It was a violation of believers' rights

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This week, the representatives of all religious denominations answered the summons of Metropolitan bishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs to gather and discuss the churches' past experience with accounting and make recommendations for legislative changes that would provide a clearer definition of the relationship between church and state, reported on July 28.

The purpose of the meeting is related to the searches that the State Revenue Service (VID) carried out in several Catholic churches in June

Metropolitan bishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs is convinced that VID's suspicions about the shortcomings of donation recording are unjustified, since the same rules that apply to business structures cannot be extrapolated to the church. 

“Incomplete information was being publicly disseminated. It was an attempt to say that there is a problem with donations, but, in our view, this is not so, because it is not understood that the church operates in accordance with the code of canonical law,” said Stankevičs.

“It is being publicly stated that VID began to show interest in donations when one of the priests purchased a car, a used car, which, as far as it is understood, was involved in the VAT carousel scheme. But the person involved was in fact the seller, and now one would be curious to know why is this being viewed as the responsibility of the priest who bought the car in good faith? A similar scenario would be – someone going to the shop, which is involved in tax fraud, buying something, and then being persecuted for tax fraud. And, unfortunately, we view the time and the way in which the searches were carried out as a violation of believers' rights. And also a restriction of religious freedom, as it was forbidden to perform services while the search was being conducted. Nor can we recognize the attendant publicity as appropriate,” said Zbigņevs Stankevičs.

On July 30, the Religious Affairs Advisory Board will address issues related to accounting in religious organizations and the true beneficiaries of religious institutions.

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