Religion needs to be governed by law

By Liu Peng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/7 20:23:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Since reform and opening-up, all areas in China have been developing, and religion is no exception. Besides the number of believers, the venues for religious activities and even international exchanges have expanded.

However, with religion's rapid growth, financial scandals involving groups making money have been common. Facts at all times and in all countries have proved that religion is not an isolated world and exists with its share of problems.

From the perspective of the history of civilization and the law of religious development, religion has existed since primitive society. In China, religion has continued to exist for a long time under socialism. This is a fact that can't be changed by human beings. How can religious groups handle their internal contradictions, put into play their positive qualities while trying to erase negative ones to ensure self-development, has been a pertinent question.

All religions formed their doctrines during the development process. Generally, world religions with a long history place a requirement of ethics on their followers. The moral standards that religious believers should follow are more stringent than those that non-believers are subject to in secular societies. Religious doctrines are binding and must be complied with by followers. As most believers are willing and able to abide by the doctrines, people normally believe that members of a religion, especially the clergy, have better morals than non-believers.

But can good doctrines guarantee everything will go well within a religious group? It's not the case. It's far from enough for a region to rely solely on the believers' observation of the doctrines. Be it in a religious group or an organization, any doctrine can only work for some people and to a certain degree.

Therefore, if religious groups hope to play a positive role in society, they have to strengthen internal management and strictly enforce doctrines. More importantly, they must obey the law. Religious believers are also citizens of the country. All people, regardless of religion, are equal before the law. Anyone who breaches the law should be punished by judicial authorities. Only by following both law and religious doctrines, can the healthy development of religion be ensured. Without the constraints of the state's law, the doctrines of religion will appear merely pale and weak.

China is a country ruled by law. Anyone and any organization must act in accordance with the law. Religious groups are no exception. For various reasons, China has yet to introduce a law on religion. It needs to be done soon.

It's hoped the national legislative authorities can expedite introducing the rule of law in the field of religion and ensure the healthy development of this social institution.

The author is director of the Beijing Pu Shi Institute for Social Science.

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