Kyrgyz Approve Restrictive Religion Law

January 13, 2009

Author: Staff Writer

Source: International Herald Tribune

Wire Service: AP

Kyrgyzstan has shrugged off U.S. concerns and adopted an amended a law that will strengthen state control over religious groups, government media reported Tuesday.

The revised legislation will strongly curtail missionary activity in the impoverished, mostly Muslim Central Asian nation. It prohibits the dissemination of religious literature in public places and requires religious communities to register more than 200 adult members before they can operate legally.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed the legislation Monday, state newspaper Slovo Kyrgyzstana said, and it took effect immediately. His approval came days after several prominent U.S. lawmakers said the legislation would "severely restrict freedom of religion" and urged a veto.

Members of the U.S. Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, including Representative Alcee Hastings of Florida and Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, sent Bakiyev a letter last week expressing concern that the law could seriously damage the country's adherence to democratic standards and its international standing.