Draft law would task governors with approving new places of worship

A draft places of worship law authorizes governors to give licenses for establishing, demolishing, or restoring places of worship after getting approval from an administration in charge of planning, according to a copy obtained by Al-Masry Al-Youm. 

The governors must make a decision within 60 days of receiving the application and requests should not be refused without stating the reasons, the draft says.

The second article stipulates that the Ministry of Religious Endowments or the recognized head of the religious sect should also approve the licenses. The number of places of worship allowed for each religion should correspond to the population within the given governorate.

Houses of worship should be at least 500 meters apart in the cities and at least 300 meters in rural areas and should not be built on agricultural lands except in special cases which the Ministry of Land Reclamation and the cabinet approve.

The third and fourth articles clarify rules that would allow the administration in question to receive license requests.

Those who violate the law or use a place of worship for another purpose may face fines between LE50,000-300,000, according to the fifth article, which also gives courts the right to order an illegal place of worship demolished.

The draft law also orders a committee formed to consider the cases of unlicensed constructions that have already been built in order to legalize them.

The head of the cabinet is also tasked with issuing the new regulations within 30 days, the law states, adding that current regulations will be enforced until that time. The existing regulations have prompted much controversy and religious minorities have often complained it is nearly impossible to win government approval for new institutions.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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