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The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government restricted this right in practice.

Respect for religious freedom has recently worsened.

Despite the law's guarantee of religious freedom, it contains a number of restrictive elements that increase the Government's control of the activities of religious groups.

The law requires all religious groups to receive prior governmental approval to import and distribute literature, prevents foreigners from leading religious organizations, and denies religious communities the right to establish schools to train their own clergy.

In 2002 President Lukashenko signed a religion law despite protests from human rights organizations, the European Union, and domestic religious groups.

The concordat recognizes the BOC's "influence on the formation of spiritual, cultural, and national traditions of the Belarusian people." It calls for the Government and the BOC to cooperate in implementing policy in various fields, including education, development and protection of cultural legacies, and security.The Government continued to restrict religious freedom in accordance with the provisions of a 2002 law on religion and a 2003 concordat with the Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC), a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the only officially recognized Orthodox denomination.Although there is no state religion, the concordat grants the BOC privileged status.A religious community must submit a list of its founders' names, places of residence, citizenship, and signatures, along with copies of its founding statutes, minutes of its founding meeting, and permission from the regional authorities confirming the community's right to occupy or use any property indicated in its founding statutes.Regional executive committees (for groups outside of Minsk) or the Minsk City Executive Committee handle all registration applications.

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