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Vietnam: Ominous New Decree 95 Confirms Government’s Intent to Control Religion

Vietnam is under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, which is subject to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church also has three parishes in Vietnam. Otherwise, most Christians in Vietnam are Roman Catholic or Protestant.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Vietnam at ChristianPersecution.com, see here.

“Ominous New Decree 95 Confirms Vietnam’s Intent to Control Religion,” Morning Star News, February 28, 2024:

(Morning Star News) – Two millennia ago, Jesus of Nazareth said, “Yes, what sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease their burden.” (Luke 11:46, NLT).

What Jesus said about the religious zealots of His day could also be said about the religion control zealots of today’s communist Vietnam, to wit: Decree 95, which has just been released in both Vietnamese and an official English translation.

The new religion decree, promulgated on Dec. 29 and effective on March 30, considerably adds to the crush of demands on religion while “elaborating some Articles and measures for execution of the Law on Religion and Folk Belief” (LRB) of 2016.

When the LRB came into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, it was followed by two draft decrees which were circulated for public comment. Domestic and international reaction to implementation Decree 162 was extremely harsh, but with modest revision it was quietly put into effect anyway in 2019.

The second draft decree, which became known pejoratively as the “punishment decree,” consisted of a multi-page schedule of administrative fines and harsher consequences for infractions of virtually all provisions of the LRB. It was so amateur and misguided that it made the purpose of the LRB look like it existed to generate funds for the government, certainly not to expand religious freedom. It was so scorned that it quietly disappeared.

But the intent of the LRB and the two ancillary decrees, which firmly pointed in the direction of ever more control over religion, did not. The highly influential Vu Chien Thang, deputy minister of Home Affairs and long-time head of the Government Committee of Religious Affairs, insisted the religion legislation needed strong enforcement measures. And now we have them.

Decree 95 appeared with less than three months to its effective date and without any public consultation. There is some speculation that it was rapidly promulgated to help Vietnam get off the U.S. State Department’s Special Watch List for religious freedom violators. If that’s the case, it will certainly fail.

Decree 95 replaces Decree 162 and the punishment decree. It contains 33 articles, eight more than Decree 162. Decree 95 also adds three more forms to the already 47 prescribed for asking permission for and reporting on religious activities. The decree and attached forms total 98 pages!

The two most important additions to Decree 162 are 1) measures on shutting down and rehabilitating activities of religious organizations and religious education institutions, and 2) requirements for local fundraising and financial management, and, for the first time, highly detailed procedures necessary for receiving foreign aid and forms for reporting on it, both finances and goods in-kind….

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