Due to controversy over a draft religious basic act, the Legislative Yuan’s Internal Administration Committee decided to cancel a scheduled review scheduled for yesterday.
The draft act was sponsored by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) and Ma Wen-chun (馬文君), as well as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺), and cosigned by more than 30 legislators across party lines.
Article 10 of the bill would have established a principle of separation of religion and secularism, and forbidden the governing authorities from interfering in religious affairs.
Photo: Chang Tsun-wei, Taipei Times
The same article would have prevented the courts from mediating religious affairs, or interfering with the organizing of religious groups and the appointing of group personnel.
Article 13 would have prevented the government from restricting or prohibiting religious activities and would have given religious groups autonomy in terms of their organizational structure, personnel and financial management.
Most importantly, it would have made religious groups exempt from the Civil Code and the oversight of agencies that supervise charity groups and foundations, as well as prohibiting the government from making religious groups conform to the principles of democracy and transparency.
Article 14 proposed that religious groups be exempt from upholding the prohibition against religious discrimination in the Employment Service Act (就業服務法).
Article 15 would have given parents and legal guardians the right to choose a religion for minors.
Article 27 would have given religious groups with a building on government-owned land that had been in use for more than five years prior to the bill’s enactment the ability to apply to purchase the land.
The DPP caucus yesterday expressed its opposition to the draft.
Several DPP legislators who had originally supported the draft had already withdrawn their cosponsorship, DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.
Wang has withdrawn as a bill sponsor.
The DPP caucus hoped that society would be given the opportunity to form a consensus on the regulation of religious groups, and did not want to conduct a hasty review, Ker said.
The caucus did not want to see religious groups smeared due to the chaos surrounding the bill’s review, he said.
The draft does not give an advantage to any group or individual, Huang said, adding that she was disappointed that some legislators accused religious groups of becoming involved with Chinese money-laundering groups as part of Beijing’s “united front” tactics.
The review was canceled so that religion would not become politicized and tainted in Taiwan, she said.
As several articles in the bill are controversial, the Ministry of the Interior is not voicing an opinion, the ministry’s Department of Civil Affairs Director Lin Ching-chi (林清淇) said.
Lin said there was no need for a basic religious act, because the Constitution already guarantees religious freedom.
The DPP and the New Power Party caucuses have proposed to return the draft to the Legislative Yuan’s plenary session for further deliberation.
Deputy Legislative Speaker Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said a new date should be set to deal with the act.
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