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Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:15 AM


Vietnam looks to amend religious laws

Freedom of religion, much like freedom of speech, is subject to interpretation by the government reports Asia Sentinel’s Khanh Vu Duc

By Asia Sentinel Feb 10, 2013 11:15AM UTC

Vietnam is considering amendments to its constitution in an apparent bid to bend freedom of worship laws to better fit the needs of the state, which in the past year has arrested Catholic, Protestant and Buddhist religious leaders.

Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton was arrested in January 2012 on unknown charges, according to Human Right Watch. Three Catholic Ha Mon Montagnard activists—Blei, Phoi, and Dinh Pset—were arrested in March. Two Hoa Hao activists, Nguyen Van Lia and Tran Hoai An, were arrested in April and July. Also in April Protestant pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh was arrested and charged with “undermining national unity.” At least 15 Catholics affiliated with Redemptorist churches in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, including bloggers Le Van Son and Ta Phong Tan, were arrested in July, August, and September.

Freedom of religion, as with other fundamental rights, is supposedly constitutionally protected. As evidenced by the government’s actions, however, “protection” is not always guaranteed. Built-in loopholes in the constitution, as well as government decrees, provide the state with certain grounds on which to overrule human and civil rights of citizens. Where the line is blurred between the government’s support and absence of support for religious freedom occurs at the reading of the law.

Freedom of religion is set out in Article 70 of the 1992 Constitution and amended in 2001, which states that citizens have the right to freedom of belief and religion, and may practice or not practice any religion. All religions are equal before the law and public places of religious worship are protected.


Which is the buggy and which is the horse?

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Reply Vietnam looks to amend religious laws (Original post)
rug Feb 2013 OP
Jim__ Feb 2013 #1
rug Feb 2013 #2
DreamGypsy Feb 2013 #3
rug Feb 2013 #4

Response to rug (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:24 PM

1. It does seem that the law is ambiguous enough to allow the government to do whatever it wants.

However, I wish the article were more specific about exactly what activities are being used as cause for arrest. For instance:

The story of Father Nguyen Van Ly, the well-known democratic rights activist, imprisoned again after serving 16 months under house arrest, is a cautionary tale for those who speak out against the government.

Where the state and religion comes into conflict is over power. If power should reside in the Christian god then the authority of the state is brought into question. The constitution states that the Communist Party is the vanguard of the people, and that the people must be loyal to the motherland. Power resides in the party, and god, or whatever spiritual deity or deities the people choose to believe in, has a place only if its authority is secondary to the party.

The state's opposition to religion is not necessarily a matter of ideology, but one of practicality. Where religious activities begin to threaten the party legitimacy, the state will intervene under the guise of national security or public order to stifle such activities.

If Father Ly is speaking out against the government, does he expect that to be protected under the umbrella of religious freedom?

Any country that grants freedom to its citizens, has to allow those citizens to speak out against the government. But, I wouldn't consider that right to be a religious right.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #1)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 05:16 PM

2. Here's some more on Father Ly.


The freedom of religion stems from and is inherent in the freedom of expression. It's in the first two articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


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Response to rug (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 06:28 PM

3. A time to cast away stones, at time to gather stones together ...

Vietnam was not a member state of the United Nations in 1948 when The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. And Vietnam did not become a signatory of the UDHR in 1977 when the country became a member state, since there are no signatories:

Q: Who are the signatories of the Declaration?

A: Since the Declaration is not legally binding technically, there are no signatories to the Declaration. Instead, the Declaration was ratified through a proclamation by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948 with a count of 48 votes to none with only 8 abstentions. This was considered a triumph as the vote unified very diverse, even conflicting political regimes.

The UDHR is an excellent, broad-reaching statement of principles. However, before using the UHDR as the basis for criticisms of the behaviors of government, we should at least recognize the pile of stones accumulating at our own feet: Article 5: torture, etc.; Article 7: Discrimination, etc.; Article 9: Arbitrary detention, etc.; Article 10: Fair, public trial, etc; Article 11: Privacy, etc; etc. .... and, while the United States could have helped the Vietnamese people have a better, democratic, and more tolerant government, the policies we applied and the atrocities we committed there don't really afford us the privilege of casting many stones.

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Response to DreamGypsy (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 06:59 PM

4. I don't disagree.


The UDHR has always been more aspirational than functional.

The import of the article to me is not that however. What strikes me is how clearly another state is again trying to harness religion to its goals.

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