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Draft of Religious Basic Law shelved due to widespread criticism.

The draft of the Religious Basic Law, which was originally scheduled to be reviewed at a Legislative Yuan session Wednesday, has been shelved indefinitely due to public concern that it will grant religions too much power in the name of protecting religious freedom.

The draft, which was co-sponsored by four bipartisan lawmakers and signed up to by 32 others, ensured 'the principle of separation of religion and secularism' and freedom of religion already stated in the Constitution.

However, many of its articles have been criticized by lawmakers and civil society groups for granting religions excessive power and for potentially overriding current laws and regulations.

Huang Kuo-chang, chairman of the New Power Party, blasted the articles stating that authorities and the courts cannot intervene in religious affairs, including its operations, practices, organizations, which he considers ignoring current legislation. The articles have also led to concern that religions or people using the name of religions may practice discrimination against other people or even commit offenses.

In addition, civil society groups opposed the articles specifying that students in compulsory education are required to take introduction courses to religions. They are worried that the law, once passed, will allow certain religious groups to preach to young students on school campuses.

Above all, under the draft's Article 15, the authorities should respect that parents can choose for their children under the age of 16 which religion they are to practice.

After coming under widespread criticism on social media, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) requested its lawmakers to revoke their signatures from the draft.

Lee Chun-yi, a DPP lawmaker, said the draft asks for religious affairs to be off-limits, which does not align with the principle of openness and transparency advocated by the party.

Huang Chao-shun, a Kuomintang lawmaker who is the main sponsor of the draft, announced on Monday that the review session had been canceled.

Huang claimed her proposal was meant to prevent political groups from interfering in religious affairs, but the discussions in the past few days about the draft had further stigmatized religions.

Huang Kuo-chang, whose New Power Party is asking for the permanent revocation of the controversial draft, said his party respects freedom of religion and worship, but such freedom cannot be exploited and used to override administration regulations and laws.

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Publication:Taiwan News (Taipei, Taiwan)
Date:Oct 24, 2018
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