Church and State Quandary: Controversy over granting Armenian Apostolic Church privileges continues

Church and State Quandary: Controversy over granting Armenian Apostolic Church privileges continues

NAZIK ARMENAKYAN
ArmeniaNow

A clergyman of the Armenian Apostolic Church believes that the bill adopted by first reading at the National Assembly of Armenia, under which the Church becomes free from property tax and gets some privileges is appropriate. Without it, argues Archbishop Arshak Khachatryan, the Holy See could decrease one or two of its charity programs, and instead, pay property tax and land tax.

“About one third of the Holy See’s budget – about $1.2 million is spent for philanthropic, educational purposes, and if the taxes are levied, then the church will have to decrease the expenditures designed for those purposes,” he says.

Lawmaker from Prosperous Armenia Party Vardan Bostanjyan worries that the adoption of such a bill will result in deprivation of funds for local governments, which are financed by local property tax.

Archbishop Khachatryan believes that the taxes levied from the lands, belonging to the church, make a subtle percentage of local governments’ budgets, and they will cause no harm to community budgets.

“Our task is to grant the Armenian Church with small tax privileges, and besides, with some moral compensation for the previous 70 years [during the Soviet period], when the church was persecuted and confiscated,” he says.

The Armenian Evangelical Baptist Church and the Armenian Katoghike Church are against the new bill; or at least its exclusivity to the “national” Church. They demand that if the bill becomes law the benefits should extend to their church property, too.

Clergyman of the Armenian Katoghike Church in Gyumri Grigor Mkrtchyan questions why the restaurant complex built on the lands of Kecharis Monastery (of the Apostolic Church) be free from taxes and, for example, the orphanage of Poghosian Educational Complex, which belongs to Katoghike Church, and which takes care of Gyumretsi orphans and socially needy families’ children instead of the government, must pay taxes.

Artsvik Minasyan, lawmaker from the Armenian Revolutionary Federations ‘Dashnaktsutyun’ (ARF) Party has also touched upon this issue earlier at the National Assembly, stating that not only the Armenian Apostolic Church functions in Armenia.