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ICC Note:  Concerns about Vietnam’s draft Religion Law are well-founded if the Vietnamese government follows the typical path of communist regimes.  Although the stated purpose of the law is to clarify and “concretize” current legislation, it is most likely that the Vietnamese government is seeking to extend its control over all religious bodies.

By UCA News reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

10/28/2015 Vietnam (UCANews.com)

With Vietnam’s parliament set to debate a controversial new law on religion in the coming weeks, spiritual leaders in Ho Chi Minh City are anxious the law will undermine religious growth and be used to justify harsh crackdowns.

The fifth version of the draft Law on Belief and Religion is set to be heard at the latest session of the National Assembly, which began in late October and runs through November. While the government has defended the bill as necessary to national security, Christian groups and others have warned that the law is a thinly veiled way to monitor and control religious movement.

“To the outside world, Vietnam allows freedom to follow any religion, but it’s not true. The government wants to toughen the law — it’s like tightening the noose,” Le Quang Hien, a Hoa Hao Buddhist leader in Ho Chi Minh City and member of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam, told ucanews.com in an interview earlier this month.

In a report printed Oct. 5 in the Vietnam “Law and Legal Forum Magazine,” a state media publication, Nguyen Khac Huy of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs said the law was meant to “concretize” the constitutional right to religious freedom.

“At the same time, it seeks to strengthen discipline and responsibility in belief and religious activities of religious organizations and competent state agencies,” he wrote.

The limitations on religious freedom, he wrote, will come “in cases of necessity for the reasons of national defense, national security, public order, social ethics, and community well-being.”

Those limitations have raised concern among religious leaders and laypeople. While churches, pagodas and mosques have flourished in recent years, the government still keeps a heavy hand on religious activity, particularly that which is viewed as evangelical.

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