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Religious Minorities in Armenia Experience Societal Discrimination: Religious Freedom Report

The constitution protects religious freedom; however, some laws and policies restrict religious freedom, reads the section on Armenia in the US State Department's 2014 International Religious Freedom Report published on July 28 and tweeted by the US Embassy in Yerevan.

In Armenian in 2013, according to the report authors, there were reports of obstacles faced by religious organizations in building places of worship and discrimination in schools against religious minority children.

"Most registered religious groups reported no significant legal impediments to their activities In May the parliament approved changes to the alternative service law establishing civilian control over alternative labor in lieu of military service. Following these amendments the government released all Jehovah’s Witnesses serving sentences for refusing on religious grounds to perform mandatory military or alternative labor service," reads the report. 

Despite some positive developments, the US State Department emphasizes that there were reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. 

Members of minority religious groups experienced societal discrimination and intolerance, including in the workplace. Many media outlets demonstrated bias against minority religious groups.

The report notes that the Armenian "Constitution and the law establish separation of church and state but recognize 'the exclusive mission of the Armenian Apostolic Church as a national church in the spiritual life, development of the national culture, and preservation of the national identity of the people of Armenia.'

"The law grants privileges to the Armenian Apostolic Church not available to other religious groups. For example, the church may have permanent representatives in hospitals, orphanages, boarding schools, military units, and places of detention, while other religious groups may have representatives in these places only upon request.


"There were reports of obstacles faced by religious organizations in building places of worship. In February the Yerevan mayor’s office refused to permit Jehovah’s Witnesses to build three places of worship, stating that building places of worship in 'inhabited areas' led to complaints from neighbors. The organization appealed the decision in court as arbitrary and discriminatory. There were reports of other minority religious groups, or those perceived as a religious group (e.g., those 
practicing yoga) having difficulties with renting space for gatherings.


"The Council of Europe commissioned a study of the rights of children of ethnic and religious minorities. It identified public schools as the place where discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes of children of religious minorities were formed. The study cited numerous reports that teachers and principals discriminated against religious minority children. According to the study, teachers of the course on the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church customarily inquired about the religious affiliation of students at the beginning of the year, thus singling out the children of religious minorities and creating potential problems with their peers. The study also found that some teachers of this course started their classes with prayers.

"On April 18, the website 'Freedom of Religion' reported the February 28 dismissal of Armine Davtyan, a professor at the Armenian State Pedagogical University. Davtyan claimed that she had been dismissed on religious grounds following the rejection of her doctoral thesis on peculiarities of spiritual education in high schools. According to the media report, the university claimed she had been removed as a result of general layoff. Davtyan noted that, while not a member of any religious group, her views differed from those of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and this had become evident during her doctoral thesis defense. Davtyan claimed she had been dismissed for these views."