(An Appeal to the Restructuring Movement Sąjūdis)
We, Catholics concerned for the renewal of society, wish to direct the attention of Sąjūdis to the fact that the democratization of society is not possible without bringing the rights of believing citizens up to par with the rights of all others, and without doing everything necessary to guarantee this equality and complete freedom of conscience.
1. Equality of rights. The Brezhnev Constitution now in effect (Art. 52), as well as the earlier Constitution of the U.S.S.R. under Stalin (Art. 124), clearly enshrines the inequality between believers and non-believers in principle. They guarantee unbelievers the right to propagate their beliefs, to carry on atheistic propaganda, while believers are guaranteed only the right to carry out religious worship, but not to spread their beliefs. So religious publishing is extremely limited, while all the mass media are obliged to propagate Soviet atheism. The very right of participating in religious worship is often denied to many citizens in various categories, especially the intellegentsia and young students.
Advocates of democratization in society should try to have the Constitution guarantee all citizens the right to profess and freely disseminate and defend their worldview (religious or atheistic convictions), and thus, equal rights to make use of the mass media. Atheistic propaganda should be financed by the atheists themselves, and not by the state, since money is earned for the state also by believers, and by citizens sympathetic to religion; in our republic, they constitute the majority.
2. State-Church-school. The aforesaid Art. 52 of the Soviet Constitution states: "In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Church is separate from the state, and the school from the Church." Logic and justice require that the separation in both cases mean the same. Just as the Church is not allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of the school: the appointment of teachers, in school organizations, etc., so, the state should renounce interfering in clergy appointments (even under the pretext of registration), in the planning of Church celebrations, the choice of candidates for the seminary, etc.
Likewise, the state should not impose upon associations of all faiths a structure taken from secular organizations (committees of twenty, with their executive organs, given precedence over hierarchical structure). Finally, just as the highest degree of loyalty to the actions of the government is required of the faithful and Church leaders, regardless of the separation of Church and state, so too the separation of the school from the Church should not be interpreted as a mandate to the school to attack religion or the Church.
Alas, up till now, this is just how Art. 52 of the Constitution has been explained. With restructuring well under way, in May of this year, the Principle of the Salininkai Middle School in the Rayon of Vilnius, sent away from the cemetery a priest who had come at the invitation of the parents to conduct funeral services for a religious student who had been killed in a traffic accident. Even that flag waver of restructuring, Gimtasis Kraštas (Native Land), (June 2,1988, June 8,1988), has denied the right of believing students to share the Christmas Eve wafer in the school dormitory.
For some decades, the consciences of believing educators have been assaulted when they have been forced to take part in anti-religious activities, and publicly to ridicule and tear down that which is sacred to them.
3. The General Anti-Religious Attitude. New laws covering the activities of religious associations have been promised, and a draft should be published for public consideration. The attitude, in principle, in effect till now, of interpreting all laws and directives to the detriment of religion and the Church, with a view to their ultimate task, first to limit the influence of religion in society, and then, to destroy it completely, should be renounced.
Chairman Konstantin Kharchev of the Council for Religious Affairs has already stated to a correspondent for the magazine Ogoniok, that restructuring has totally rejected the view of believers as second-class citizens (thus, admitting that such an attitude existed), but the representatives of that council in our republic continue, till now, to condone unjust restrictions: the law allows religious funeral services in crematoria, but in Lithuania, they are forbidden in facilities sharing the same category with crematoria - funeral homes. Many offices and organizations refuse to provide any assistance at all at the funeral of one of the members of their collective, if it is performed with religious ceremonies, and the representatives of the Council for Religious Affairs fail to protest.
4. Freedom of Conscience and Unwilling Supporters of Atheism.
The program and the Constitution of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and rules of the Lithuanian Communist Youth, obliging all their members to attack religion, restrict the civil rights of believing citizens guaranteed by Art. 48 and Art. 51 of the Soviet Constitution, and violate conscience. Upon deciding to become a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union or the Lithuanian Communist Youth, a believer must either take on obligations contrary to one's conscience and carry them out, or dissimulate, or to remain outside these organizations which have a decisive voice in affairs of government and society.
The new regulation that only the First Secretary of the Party Committee will be able to become Chairman of the corresponding Council of Deputies cuts off any possibility for a believer unprepared to dissimulate, to assume such a position. Thus again, you have either violation of conscience, or discrimination. The one legal party in the country, and the sole legal mass youth organization should be neutral with regard to religion, so that citizens of various beliefs could belong to them. Otherwise, in the restructuring movement, there should be a motion that the believers who have joined under pressure or through some misunderstanding, should resign from these organizations with the legal and actual guarantee that this will have no negative social consequences for them.
We urgently ask the restructuring movement to explain to official agencies and to the public that believing citizens will be able, sincerely, to participate in restructuring and renewal only when they are convinced that their "apartness" really has been unconditionally eliminated. We will know that from appropriate legal actions, and most importantly, from everyday practice. For example:
If the principle church of Lithuania, the Cathedral of Vilnius, is returned to religious worship, and new churches are permitted to be built where they are needed by the faithful;
If the Museum of Atheism is removed from the Church of Saint Casimir, Patron of Lithuania, and the profanation of that sacred shrine ends;
If religious associations obtain the rights of a juridical person and church centers the full right to publish;
If the ban on teaching children and youth religion is abrogated; If church temperence, welfare and other fraternities and organizations are allowed to be established and operate;
If the agenda of the Council for Religious Affairs is restructured so that it is no longer an instrument of repression of the Church;
If an end is made to systematically demeaning religion and the Church in school and the mass media;
If no one, under any semblence, is forced to speak and act against his conscience, and the practice of religion is no longer an obstacle to promotion at work, in school or in cultural activities.
We would like the entire Lithuanian public to be informed about this appeal.
Julija Šalkauskienė Vincas Rastenis
Artist (widow of Prof. Šalkauskas) Physician
Vilnius, K. Požėlos g. 20-7 Vilnius, Architektų 36-24
Alfonsas Misevičius Povilas Varnelė
Vilnius, Baltupio 55-40 Vilnius, Vykinto 7-1
Antanė Kučinskaitė Linguist
Vilnius, Lenino pr. 2-20