New regulations that went into effect in China this month require churches and other religious organizations to “support the leadership” of the Communist Party and “adhere to” the government’s teachings.
Further, all churches and religious organizations must be “examined and approved” before they can legally worship.
The new regulations, dubbed the “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups,” were passed in 2019 and went into effect Feb. 1. Bitter Winter, a watchdog that reports on China’s religious liberty violations, released the first English translation of the new rules.
“A religious organization can be recognized as such only when it has been examined and approved by the religious affairs department of the people’s government, and register with the civil affairs department of the people’s government, in accordance with the national regulations on the administration of social organizations, and on religious affairs,” Article 3 of the new regulations states. “Without the approval of the religious affairs department of the people’s government, or registration with the civil affairs department of the people’s government, no religious activities in the name of religious organizations are allowed.”
Article 5 says churches and other religious organizations “must support the leadership of the Communist Party of China” and “adhere to the direction of Sinicization of religions in China.”
“Sinicization” is a term that means all religions must reflect Chinese culture and traditions, as defined by the government. Article 5 also says religious organizations must “embody the core values of socialism.”
The new regulations emphasize that the purpose of churches and other religious organizations is to support the government – and not necessarily to worship God. For example, Article 17 says religious organizations “should publicize the guidelines and policies of the Communist Party of China” to the clergy and religious citizens “in order to instruct and direct the clergy and religious citizens to support the rule of the Communist Party of China” and “support the socialist system, follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, abide by the laws, regulations, rules and policies, correctly treat the relationship between state laws and religious rules, and strengthen their national consciousness, consciousness of rule by law, and consciousness of one’s duty as a citizen.”
Meanwhile, according to Article 22, the religious doctrine of churches and organizations must reflect – and not conflict with – Chinese society.
“[Religious organizations] should provide interpretations for doctrines and canons that meet the requirements of the development and progress of modern China, and in accordance with the glorious traditional Chinese culture,” Article 22 says.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Igor Ilnitckii
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.