Cablegate: Text of Vietnam's New Ordinance On Religion
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 08 HANOI 002009
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV and DRL/IRF
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS KIRF VM RELFREE HUMANR
SUBJECT: TEXT OF VIETNAM'S NEW ORDINANCE ON RELIGION
REF: Hanoi 1987
1. (U) Following is an unofficial Embassy translation of
Vietnam's new Ordinance on Belief and Religion.
Ordinance on Belief and Religion
Pursuant to the 1992 Constitution of the Socialist Republic
of Vietnam, which was amended and supplemented under
Resolution No. 51/2001/QH 10 dated December 25, 2001 by the
10th National Assembly during its 10th session;
Pursuant to the Resolution No. 21/2003/QH11 dated November
26, 2003 on its legislative work plan for the year 2004 by
the 11th National Assembly during its 4th session;
This Ordinance governs belief and religious activities.
Citizens have the right to freedom of belief and religion,
and freedom of non-belief and non-religion.
The State ensures freedom of belief and religion. Nobody is
permitted to violate these freedoms.
All religions are treated equally before the law.
Citizens who are adherents to beliefs and religions and
those who are non-believers must respect each other.
Religious dignitaries and priests, and believers and
religious citizens enjoy all citizens' rights and have the
responsibility to discharge all citizens' obligations.
Religious dignitaries and priests have the responsibility to
regularly educate believers about patriotism, citizens'
rights and obligations, and obedience to the law.
For the purpose of this ordinance, terms are defined as
1. Belief activities are activities of ancestor worship;
activities in memory and honor of those who have rendered
great services to the country and the community; activities
to worship divinities and traditional symbols as well as
other folklore belief activities that represent fine
historical, cultural, moral and social values.
2. Place of worship is the place where the community's
belief activities take place, including communal houses,
temples, shrines, family worshipping halls, and other
3. Religious organization is the assembly of believers of
the same tenets, cannons, rites, and is organized into a
certain structure recognized by the State.
4. Local religious organization is the local unit of a
religious organization including Buddhist temples'
management boards, Catholic parishes, Protestant
associations, Cao Dai parishes, Hoa Hao management boards at
the commune, precinct, and township level, and local units
of other religious organizations.
5. Religious activities are the preaching and practicing of
religious tenets, cannons, and rites, and religious
6. Religious congregation is the assembly of believers that
is set up by religious organizations for the sake of
7. Religious establishment is a place of religious worship,
a place where priests lead a religious life, a school to
train religious dignitaries and priests, the office of a
religious organization, and other establishments affiliated
with religions recognized by the State.
8. Believer is a person who believes in a religion and is
recognized by that religion.
9. Priest is a believer who regularly and voluntarily
practices his/her life style according to tenets and cannons
prescribed by the religion that he/she believes in.
10. Dignitary is a believer who holds a position and title
in a religion.
Pagodas, churches, oratories, communal houses, temples,
shrines, offices of religious organizations, religious
organizations' training establishments, other legal
religious and belief organizations, liturgical and worship
instruments are protected by law.
The State ensures the right to belief and religious practice
according to legal provisions; respects religious cultural
and ethical values; preserves and promotes the positive
values of the tradition of ancestor worship and honoring
those people have rendered great service to the country and
community, which contributes to further consolidate great
national unity and meets the common people's spiritual need.
Relations between the state of the Socialist Republic of
Vietnam and other countries and international organizations
over religion-related issues must be based on the principles
of respecting independence, sovereignty, non-interference
into each other's internal affairs, equality, mutual
benefit, which are in conformity with each other's law as
well as international law and practices.
1. The Vietnam Fatherland Front and its member
organizations, within the scope of their duties and
authorities, have the responsibility to:
a. Gather followers of belief and religions and non-
believers to build national unity, and to build and defend
b. Promptly report the people's comments, expectations, and
petitions on belief and religion-related issues to competent
c. Take part in the dissemination of information, encourage
religious dignitaries, priests and believers, believers,
religious organizations and common people to execute the
State ordinance on belief and religion.
d. Take part in the process of development and monitoring
with respect to the execution of State policies and
ordinance on belief and religion.
2. State agencies, within the scope of their duties and
authorities, take the initiative in cooperating with the
Vietnam Fatherland Front and its member organizations in
disseminating information about, and encouraging the
implementation of, the State's ordinance and policies on
belief and religion.
1. Discrimination on belief and religious grounds that
constitutes a violation to the citizen's freedom of belief
and religion is not allowed.
2. The abuse of the right to freedom of belief and religion
to undermine peace, independence and national unity; incite
violence or to wage war; disseminate information against
prevailing State's law and policies; sow division among the
people, ethnic groups, and religions; cause public disorder;
do harm to other people's lives, health, dignity, honor, and
property; hinder people from exercising their rights and
public obligations; spread superstitious practices and
commit acts to breach the law, are not allowed.
ACTIVITIES OF BELIEVERS AND ACTIVITIES OF RELIGIOUS
DIGNITARIES, PRIESTS AND ADHERENTS
1. People with belief and religious adherents are free to
express their faith, conduct rites of worship and prayers,
take part in and provide service for religious festivities,
and study religious teachings.
2. People with belief and religious adherents have the
responsibility to respect each other's freedom of belief and
religion and the freedom of non-belief and non-religion; the
implementation of the right to freedom of belief and
religion must not hinder the discharge of citizen's rights
and obligations; belief and religious activities must be
according to law.
People who take part in belief and religious activities must
obey regulations set by the places of belief and religious
worship, and other regulations agreed upon by the community.
1. Religious dignitaries and priests are allowed to carry
out their religious functions and roles within the limits of
their responsibilities, and to preach at religious
2. For activities beyond those mentioned in clause 1 of this
Article, there must be the consent of the People's Committee
at the district or town level (hereinafter referred to as
People's Committee at the district level) where the
activities take place.
1. The person in charge of a local religious organization
has the responsibility annually to register religious
activities to take place at that religious establishment
with the People's Committee at the commune, precinct, and
township level (hereinafter is referred to as the communal
level People's Committee); activities beyond those which
have been registered shall require the consent of competent
2. The authority to approve the organization of a religious
festival is regulated by the Government.
1. Persons who are serving prison terms or who are under
administrative probation are not allowed to preside over
religious rituals, to preach religion, to manage religious
organizations, and to preside over belief festivities.
2. The restoration of the religious functions or role of
individuals who have completed the term of these sanctions
must be proposed by the religious organization that manages
him/her, and agreed upon by the competent State management
Belief and religious activities must ensure safety and cost
effectiveness, be in line with national traditions and
cultural identity, and be safe for the environment.
Belief and religious activities will be suspended if they:
1. Violate national security, seriously affect public order
2. Negatively affect the people's unity or the nation's fine
3. Do harm to other people's lives, health, dignity, honor,
4. Cause other serious illegal activities.
RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS AND THEIR ACTIVITIES
1. An organization shall be recognized as a religious
organization if it meets the following conditions:
a. It is an organization of people with the same belief, who
follow religious rites that do not go against the nation's
fine traditions and customs, and national interests.
b. It has a charter outlining principles, objectives and
activities favoring attachment to the nation and conforming
c. It has its activities registered and maintains long-term
d. It has an office, an organization and legal
e. It has a name that is not identical to name of other
religious organizations already recognized by the competent
State management agency.
2. Level of authorization regarding recognition of religious
a. Prime Minister shall recognize the religious
organizations with activities covering multiple provinces or
centrally run cities.
b. Chairman of city or provincial People's Committees shall
recognize religious organizations with activities covering
mostly a single province or centrally run city.
3. The registration of religious activities is stipulated in
item 1 point c of this article; the Government shall provide
instructions on religious activities of registered religious
organizations and on procedures for the recognition of
1. Religious organizations are entitled to establish, split,
and merge their subordinate organizations in accordance with
the organizations' charters and regulations.
2. The establishment, split, and merger of local religious
organizations must be approved upon by the People's
Committees at the province and centrally government city
level (hereinafter is referred to the People's Committee at
the provincial level.)
3. The establishment, split, and merger of religious
organizations that do not fall into those stipulated in
clause 2 of this article must be approved by the Prime
1. Conferences and congresses of local religious
organizations shall take place after getting the approval
from the People's Committee of the district where the event
2. Conferences and congresses of religious organizations at
the national level shall take place after getting the
approval from the competent State management agency.
3. Conferences and congresses of religious organizations not
included in items 1 & 2 of this article shall take place
after getting the approval from the People's Committee of
the province where the event takes place.
1. Religious congregations are allowed to operate after the
religious organization has registered with the competent
2. The registration of a religious congregation is
prescribed as follows:
a. Religious congregations with activities covering one
precinct, district, town, provincially run city shall have
their operation registered with the People's Committee of
the district where the congregations operate.
b. Religious congregations with activities covering several
precincts, districts, towns, provincially and centrally run
cities shall have their operation registered with the
People's Committees of the provinces where the congregations
c. Religious congregations with activities covering several
provinces and centrally run cities shall have their
operations registered with the religious management agency
at central level.
Religious orders or similar forms of collective religious
practice shall operate after having its operation registered
with the competent State agency.
The registration of operations of religious orders or
similar forms of collective religious practice follow
stipulations prescribed at item 2 of article 19 of this
1. Persons who lead a religious life at places of religious
worship do it on a voluntary basis; no coercion or
prevention is allowed. Adolescents who want to lead a
religious life must obtain approval from parents or
2. Upon admission of people into places of religious worship
in order for them to lead a religious life, persons in
charge of the places of religious worship have the
responsibility to register such admittance with the People's
Committee of the commune where the place of religious
worship is located.
1. The bestowal of religious titles and the appointment,
election, and nomination of religious dignitaries and
priests shall be conducted according to charters and
regulations of the religious organizations and must meet
conditions mentioned at item 2 of this article. In cases in
which a foreign element is involved, it must obtain
agreement in advance from the central religious management
2. The persons who receive appointments and promotions must
meet the following conditions in order to be able to be
recognized by the State.
a. Be a Vietnamese citizen with good moral conduct.
b. Possess the spirit of unity and national harmony.
c. Seriously observe the law.
3. The dismissal of religious dignitaries shall be according
to charters or regulations of religious organizations.
4. Religious organizations have the responsibility to
register the appointment, election, and nomination of
religious dignitaries and priests with the competent State
management agency as well as notify the competent State
management agency of the dismissal of dignitaries.
The transfer of religious dignitaries and priests shall be
reported to the People's Committee of the district from
which the dignitaries and priests are transferred, and
registered with the People's Committee of the district to
which the dignitaries and priests are transferred.
The transfer of religious dignitaries and priests who have
been administratively punished by decisions of the Chairman
of the Provincial People's Committee, or those who have been
dealt with for their violations to Criminal Law, must also
be approved by the People's Committee of the province to
which the dignitaries and priests are transferred according
to Government regulations.
1. Religious organizations are allowed to open schools and
classes to train religious dignitaries and priests.
2. The opening of schools and classes to train religious
dignitaries and priests must be approved by the Prime
Enrollment must be conducted in a transparent manner;
candidates apply to become students on a voluntary basis and
be aware of the school's regulations.
The subjects of Vietnamese history and laws are among the
major subjects in the curriculum.
3. The opening of classes to train religious dignitaries and
priests must be approved by the Chairman of the People's
Committee of the province where the class is opened.
4. The Government shall issue instructions on procedures for
the opening and dissolving of schools to train religious
dignitaries and priests and the opening of classes to train
religious dignitaries and priests.
Religious ritual festivities taking place beyond the
enclosure of the places of worship shall observe the
1. Ritual festivities with participation of believers from
one single district, precinct, town, and city must be
approved by the People's Committee of the district where the
festivity takes place.
2. Ritual festivities with participation of believers from
several districts, precincts, towns, and cities within one
province, or from several provinces and centrally run cities
must be approved by the People's Committee of the province
where the festivity takes place.
PROPERTY OF PLACES OF BELIEF & RELIGIOUS WORSHIP AND SOCIAL
ACTIVITIES OF RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS, BELIEVERS, PRIESTS,
The legal property of places of belief and religious worship
is protected by law; any violation is forbidden.
1. Land with facilities being used by religious
organizations including land belonging to pagodas, churches,
oratories, chancel, monasteries, schools to train religious
dignitaries and priests, offices of religious organizations,
and other facilities belonging to recognized religious
organizations shall be used in a stable and long-term basis.
2. Land on which there are communal houses, temples,
shrines, worshipping halls, family worshipping halls, shall
be used in a stable and long-term basis.
3. The land use and management prescribed in items 1 & 2 of
this article shall be conducted according to State law on
1. Places of belief worship and religious organizations are
entitled to raise their own financial resources from the
voluntary support of individuals and organizations at home
and abroad according to law.
2. The organization of collections must be conducted in a
transparent manner, with clear information about the
intended use, and must get approval in advance from the
People's Committee of the location where the collection
3. The abuse of collection for the sake of personal benefits
or illegal objectives is not allowed.
Normal religious practice must be assured at the classified
religious worshipping places.
The management, use, renovation, and upgrading of structures
belonging to places of belief worship and religious
organizations classified as the historical and cultural
relics and places of scenic beauty shall be according to
State law on cultural heritage and related laws.
The renovation, upgrading, and construction of facilities
belonging to places of belief worship and religious
organizations shall be conducted according to State law on
Changes in intended uses of places of belief worship must be
approved by the People's Committee at the district level;
changes in intended uses of places of religious worship must
be approved by the People's Committee at the provincial
The relocation of the places of belief and religious worship
due to socio-economic demands must be discussed in advance
with the representatives of the places of belief and
religious worship, and compensation must be made as
prescribed by law.
The printing and publication of bibles and books and other
belief and religious publications, the production, business
and import-export activities in belief and religious
cultural articles, products used in religious practice shall
be carried out according to law.
1. The State encourages and creates the favorable conditions
for religious organizations to participate in taking care of
underprivileged children; provide support to the
establishments for the poor or marginal people, HIV/AIDS and
leprosy patients, and patients of mental disorder; support
the development of kindergartens and participate in other
charitable and humanitarian activities in line with the
religious organizations' charters and regulations and
according to law.
2. Religious dignitaries and priests with citizenship are
encouraged by the State to organize educational, health,
humanitarian and charitable activities as prescribed by law.
INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES OF RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION,
BELIEVERS, PRIESTS AND DIGNITARIES
Religious organizations, believers, priests and dignitaries
are entitled to carry out international activities according
to charters and regulations or canons which are in line with
While carrying out international activities, religious
organizations, believers, priests and dignitaries must treat
each other fairly, exercise mutual respect for each other,
and respect independence, sovereignty and internal affairs
The following international activities must be approved by
state religious management agency at the central level.
1. Inviting foreign religious organizations and individuals
into Vietnam or implementing policies of foreign religious
organizations in Vietnam;
2. Participating in religious activities, delegating
individuals to take part in religious training courses in
Foreign dignitaries and priests are allowed to preach at
Vietnamese religious establishments after getting approval
from the State religious management agency at the central
level. Preaching by foreign dignitaries and priests must
follow regulations set by the Vietnamese religious
organizations and be according to Vietnamese law.
Foreigners entering Vietnam must obey Vietnamese law; they
are allowed to bring along religious printed materials and
other products for religious practice for personal use as
prescribed by the Vietnamese law; are allowed to take part
in religious activities at religious worshipping places; are
allowed to invite Vietnamese religious dignitaries to
conduct religious rituals for him/herself while obeying
regulations set by the Vietnamese religious organization.
In case the international treaties to which the Socialist
Republic of Vietnam is a signatory or has entered into
prescribe different stipulations as compared with this
ordinance, the regulations prescribed by those international
1. Religious organizations which have been recognized by the
competent State agency before the entry into effect of this
ordinance will not have to re-apply for recognition.
2. Religious congregations, orders and other forms of
collective religious practice which have their operations
registered and approved before the taking into effect of
this ordinance will not have to go through the re-
This ordinance takes effect from November 15, 2004.
The Government shall guide the implementation of this
Hanoi, 18th June 2004
For the Standing Committee of the National Assembly
Nguyen Van An