Is Ukraine losing its religious freedom?

There is a growing number of people who are not sure that America should be supporting Ukraine as it has been doing. They say we cannot afford it and Ukraine has all kinds of problems of its own. The latest lie is the supposed crackdown on religious freedom and on people of faith. They say, the intention of the Ukrainian government is to do away with the country’s ancient religion – Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

It is okay to think Ukraine should not be supported by America if that is your political or economical philosophy, but let us not make that decision based on misinformation and outright lies. I do not want to malign anybody’s beloved commentator, so as you can see, I have cleverly disguised the prognosticator who has been disseminating bold faced lies and misinformation (a man whose name shall not be mentioned). The important thing to know is what this person has said. Here is a list:

  1. “He (Zelensky) has sent soldiers into churches… and arrested priests for no justifiable reason whatsoever and in clear violation of the Ukrainian constitution.”
  2. “He (Zelensky) announced his plan to ban an entire religion, the Ukrainian Orthodox church, and seize its property, all for being insufficiently loyal to his regime.”
  3. “(He – Zelensky) is devising ways to punish people for practicing their banned ancient religion.”
  4. “Personal economic and restrictive sanctions will be applied to any Christian caught worshiping in unapproved ways”
  5. “The Ukrainian Orthodox church is not Russian. It is Ukrainian. It has no connection to the Russian government.”
  6. “It has, in fact, officially denounced the Russian invasion.”

I forced myself to listen to a nine-minute diatribe against Ukraine and Zelensky by our famous commentator. After each line, I paused the rant and took copious notes so that I would not bring false witness against our show’s host. Then when it was over, I took a shower and cleaned my ears with 91% isopropyl alcohol. In just nine minutes of commentary, I had uncovered nineteen false statements. As my British friends might say, “This bloke’s a complete nutter telling porkies like that.”

There are two types of Ukrainian Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. As you read further, you will become acquainted with the main differences between the two.

It is difficult to know where to begin with such an avalanche of boulderdash1. So let us begin with the end and work our way backwards:

6. Has the church our commentator is talking about officially denounced the Russian invasion? The answer is yes… and no. In May of last year, this church issued an official statement condemning the war. They even declared themselves independent from the Russian Orthodox Church, but then they continued to be a part of the Russian Orthodox Church.

5. Is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Russian? The mistaken commentator disguised above is referring to the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church OF THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE!” The UOC-MP is a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Not only is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate directly connected to the Russian Orthodox Church, they both answer to the same corrupt and evil religious leader, Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyaev, a.k.a. Kirill 1 (who answers to the corrupt and evil Putin). If you click on the picture of Patriarch Kirill, you will hear his Sept 25, 2022 sermon in which he preaches how soldiers who give their lives on the battlefield automatically have their sins cleansed because of their sacrifice. He has blessed soldier and war machinery. He blesses and praises Putin. It is commonly believed that he is on Putin’s generous payroll.

4. Is Zelensky and the Ukrainian government sanctioning people for worshiping in unapproved ways? NO! This is conspiratorial nonsense made up by a deceptive commentator. I am not always a big fan of Snopes, but in this case, I have read and can endorse their debunking of this false statement. Click here to read the article on Snopes fact checking service. In this case, Snopes has done a great job and is well documented.

3. Is the Zelensky administration devising way to punish people for practicing their ancient religion? Absolutely not! This is one of the more ridiculous deceptions from the above pictured commentator. There is very little difference in the ways of worship between the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (autocephalous) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The forms of worship for both of these denominations are very similar. Also, there are no approved or unapproved ways of worship from Ukraine’s viewpoint – only leadership whose allegiance is for Ukraine and one whose allegiance is for Russia.

2. Did Zelensky announce plans to ban an entire religion and seize its property because it was not loyal enough to his administration? The answer is no, no and no.

  • First of all, Zelensky and his administration are not at odds with a religion, but with a denomination. If the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate ceased to exist, the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine would easily and gladly take its place. Adherents of Orthodoxy in Ukraine have not been persecuted like it was in the Soviet Union except for those churches in Russian occupied territory.
  • Secondly, the UOC-MP has no land of its own. All of its properties belong to the government which has leased the land to the church at very symbolic prices. Because of its prominence in Ukrainian society, the church has held a very privileged position. Why buy the cow if you get the milk for free? and why buy the land if you can lease it for almost free?
  • Thirdly, Zelensky cannot ban the UOC-MP even if he wanted to, because it is not an official entity in Ukraine. Having so much power and feeling very privileged, the religion has never registered as an entity in Ukraine with the ministry of religion. This means there is nothing that can be banned. The main power that the government has is to revoke the leases or simply not to renew the leases the individual churches and monasteries have, and to lease them to a different church like the self-governing (autocephalous) Orthodox Church of Ukraine. This is quite a process that, as of this writing, only the two western oblasts of Lvivs’ka and Volyns’ka have succeeded in doing completely.
  • Fourthly, the UOC-MP is not in the hot-seat because it is not sufficiently loyal to Zelensky, but because it is not sufficiently loyal to Ukraine. Its leadership is too loyal to Russia. It has done many treacherous dealings to Ukraine. We must not forget that Ukraine is not America. During this time of genocidal war, as Ukraine is fighting for the right to exist against an evil empire three and a half times its population, it is not tolerating disloyalty and treachery to the country.

1. Did Zelensky send “soldiers” into churches? Did he arrest priests for no justifiable reason whatsoever? Are these actions in clear violation of the Ukrainian constitution? Here our esteemed commentator begins his rant against Ukraine’s religious freedom and it is where we end our analysis.

  • The commentator uses the inflammatory word soldiers instead of the more fitting word officers. The officers that raided a few churches and a monastery were officers for the SBU, which may be compared to the FBI or CIA of the United States.
  • The SBU had many good reasons to take the actions that it took. Here are some of the items it found in its searches: Pro-Russia literature, anti-Ukraine literature, illegally obtained Russian passports, propaganda tools, and stolen icons.
  • It is highly doubtful that the commentator has read the Ukrainian constitution. If he had, why did he not refer to the article of the constitution that he believes Zelensky violated? Answer: because it does not exist. Having read the constitution of Ukraine, I found no violation in the actions of the SBU. One may not like what was done, but it was not against the constitution. In fact, given the allegations, it most likely would have gone against the constitution not to investigate the thirteen churches and monasteries that were reportedly raided. Should Ukraine allow its president to pick and choose the laws that will be enforced?

Now you know the truth. Of course, the truth is not as exciting as listening to inflammatory and lying commentators, but it is certainly better for your cardiovascular system and it probably will not give you ulcers. If you want to know more, here are some links to take you further in your quest:

1Boulderdash is coined from the word balderdash to keep with the literary theme of the previously utilized word avalanche.

Eric Yodis has served through WorldVenture in Ukraine since 1995. After nineteen years in eastern Ukraine with his wife, Beth, they fled the war of Russian aggression in June 2014. Since 2015, they have lived in the Kyiv Oblast, but have once again been forced to evacuate due to the continuing war of Russian aggression against the peace loving people of Ukraine.

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