Moldova

Last Updated 6 September 2021

With a population of just over four million, Moldova is a parliamentary republic nestled between Romania and Ukraine.

 
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

According to the Constitution, there is no State religion in Moldova. Article 10 of the Constitution provides for equal treatment for all citizens regardless of religion, and Article 31 provides for freedom of conscience. “Religious cults” are stated to be independent from the state and free to organize and operate according to their own statutes.1https://www.legislationline.org/download/id/8334/file/Moldova_Constitution_1994_am2017_en.pdf

In practice, however, the Moldovan Orthodox Church (MOC) benefits from preferential treatment.

Article 15.5 of the 2007 Law on Religious Denominations explicitly acknowledges “the special importance and leading role of the Orthodox Christian religion and, respectively, of the Moldovan Orthodox Church in the life, history and culture of the Republic of Moldova.”2https://www.legislationline.org/documents/id/15972 As observed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in a 2011 country report on Moldova, the MOC enjoys a formally “privileged treatment in many fields,” which the Rapporteur noted is at variance with the constitutional provisions of a secular state.3https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/721009/files/A_HRC_19_60_Add-2-EN.pdf

Religious groups are not required to register with the State. However, only registered religious groups possess status as legal entities and receive certain tax benefits.4https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/moldova/ Minority Muslim communities in Moldova have experienced difficulties in obtaining registration in the past.5https://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=613; https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/MuslimcommunitythrivinginMoldova.aspx

Education and children’s rights

Article 35 of the Constitution stipulates that “the State education system is laic” (secular). Nonetheless, religious customs pervade in many schools: for example, many schools start and end the year with a religious service; various events along religious themes are organized throughout the school year; religious symbols (such as crucifixes and Bible quotes) are found in classrooms; and some schools have active chapels attended to by priests.6Religious Education at Schools in Europe, Part 4: Eastern Europe, M. Rothgangel, Y. Danilovich, M. Jäggle (Vienna University Press, 2020), pp.147-148.

Religion classes in State educational institutions are offered throughout primary school (Grades 1-9) and are optional. Students may submit a written request to a school’s administration in order to enroll in a religion class. The religious curriculum is limited and only offers two types of courses: one for Orthodox denominations and Roman Catholics, and the second for evangelical Christians and Seventh-day Adventists.7https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/moldova/

Family, community and society 

During a country visit to Moldova in 2012, the then UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, stated that according to testimony from civil society organizations, “the Church wields enormous political influence […] politicians would require a great deal of courage to publicly resist political demands coming from the Orthodox Church,” with negative implications for progress in the field of human rights, non-discrimination and equality.8https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/721009/files/A_HRC_19_60_Add-2-EN.pdf

LGBTI+ Rights

The MOC (which has strong ties with the Russian Orthodox Church)9https://balkaninsight.com/2018/10/17/moldova-should-go-also-for-autocephaly-from-moscow-experts-say-10-16-2018/ promotes a narrative of ‘traditional’ values and is strongly opposed to LGBTI+ equality. It has spoken out against laws ensuring equality and non-discrimination and frequently opposes LGBTI+ marches and gatherings, referring to them as “homosexual propaganda” and asking the government to impose a ban on such gatherings.10https://fpc.org.uk/the-rise-of-illiberal-civil-society-in-moldova/ The presence of religious hardliners has meant that LGBTI+ solidarity marches frequently erupt in violence or are met with anti-LGBTI+ counter-demonstrations.11https://neweasterneurope.eu/2020/09/07/in-church-we-trust-the-case-of-the-moldovan-orthodox-church/;https://www.euronews.com/2019/05/20/moldovan-pride-march-met-by-opposing-groups

Members of the MOC who express support for LGBTI+ rights may be publicly condemned and sidelined. In 2018, a priest named Maxim Melinti, who accepted an award from an LGBTI+ organisation (Genderdoc-M) was banned from officiating services and forced to make a public apology. Melinti was accused by the MOC of supporting “sodomite minorities and the promotion of non-traditional behavior and thus of outrageous sins, all contributing to the denigration of the image of the Orthodox Church in Moldova, as well as of the clergy.”12https://www.rferl.org/a/moldovan-church-priest-melinti-lgbt-suspended/29321830.html

Spreading of anti-science conspiracy theories and misinformation

In 2020, the MOC was involved in spreading an anti-science conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 vaccine. In a statement to the press, a MOC representative called on vaccination not to be made mandatory, because “the global anti-Christian system wants to introduce microchips into people’s bodies with whose help they can control them, through 5G technology.”13https://www.rferl.org/a/moldova-s-orthodox-church-lashes-out-at-anti-christ-plot-to-develop-virus-vaccine/30624250.html

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The constitution protects freedom of expression and assembly and the current Moldovan government has generally protected those rights, though in terms of ownership the media landscape is dominated by a few public figures and politicians.14https://freedomhouse.org/country/moldova/freedom-world/2021

The government in separatist Transnistria significantly restricts media freedom.15https://freedomhouse.org/country/transnistria/freedom-world/2020

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