Between Secularism and State Support of Religious Communities: An (In)Equality Dilemma

  • Dr.Sc. Bekim Kadriu State University of Tetova
  • Dr.Sc. Ardit Memeti Kuwait International Law school
Keywords: equality, discrimination, freedom of religion, human rights,


This paper discusses the concepts of ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘secularism’ in the context of the situation in Macedonia. It argues that State policies to support dominant religion(s) are not in coherence with the Constitution, the principle of equality and secularism, as well as the applicable international human rights standards. Having in mind that R. Macedonia is a secular State and that there is solid non-discrimination legislation in place, it is of interest to investigate whether such policy approaches are discriminatory. Such developments may threaten the principle of secularism, human rights and stability in a fragile multi-ethnic and multi-religious country such as R. of Macedonia.

In terms of methodology, this paper primarily focuses on the use of the normative and the empirical method. These methods are especially of use in the part where the existing legal framework in the domestic and international law is analyzed in regard to the various practices challenging the principles of secularism and equality before the law. In addition, this paper also focuses on the various reports in order to discuss and address relevant perceptions to such practices.

This article consists of four parts. Introductory remarks are provided in section I. Section II explores the notions of secularism and equality before the law. Section III explores the various institutional practices such as: religious instruction in public schools; building of religious objects with State funding and support; non-registration of religious communities; and practicing religious ceremonies in public institutions. Finally, section IV offers concluding remarks and comments.

Author Biography

Dr.Sc. Bekim Kadriu, State University of Tetova
Assistant Professor


Amendment VII of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, Official Gazette of Republic of Macedonia, number 91/2001, from 20.11.2001;

Basic Court II Skopje, Decision Reg. Rg-21/10, 20,12, 2010;

Berman J. B., Bhargava R., & André Laliberté A., (2013). “Secular States and Religious Diversity”, UBC Press, p.1-4;

Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, Official Gazette of Republic of Macedonia, number 52/91 of 22.11.1991, Article 9, 19, 118, Amendment VII;

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia, Decision D 202-2008-0-1 dated 15 April 2009;

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia, U. no. 24/2012-0-0 of 20.11.2012;

Copson, A., (2017). “Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom”, Oxford University Press, p.93;

Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, GA Res. 36/55 of 25 November 1981, Articles 1, 2 and 3;

Encyclopedia Britannica, Secularism, October 14, 2008. Available from:, [Accessed 25 October 2017];

European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, 2010, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, ECRI (2010)19, 15 June 2010, para. 101.Available from:, [Accessed 25 October 2017];

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 4 November 1950, Articles 9 and 14;

European Court of Human Rights, case Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and others v. Moldova, App. No. 45701/99, Judgment of 13.12.2001, para. 118;

European Court of Human Rights, Dogru v. France, The Judgment from 4 March 2009;

Family law of Republic of Macedonia, Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia number 83/2004 of 24.11.2004;

Fox J., (2011), “Separation of Religion and State and Secularism in Theory and in Practice”, Journal of Religion, State and Society, p. 397;

Freedom of Thought report, A global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Nonreligious, 2016 Available, [Accessed 25 October 2017];

Government of Macedonia, (2012), "The foundation stone laying ceremony for the renovation of the church St. Constantine and Elena". 11 November. Available from:, [Accessed 13 October 2017];

Human Rights Council, Follow-up table to the country visit of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (26-29 April 2009), Recommendations of the Special Rapporteur’s mission report (A/HR/13/40/Add.2), para.52, 53,55;

Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Reporter on freedom of religion or belief Asma Jahangi, Mission in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Doc. A/HRC/13/40Add.2, 28 December 2009;

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, New York, 16 December 1966, Articles 18 and 26;

Kadriu, B. (2009), “Prohibition for the construction of minarets in Switzerland violates international obligations”, Lajm, 2 December, p.11.

Law on State Holidays of Republic of Macedonia, Official gazette of Republic of Macedonia, number 54/97 and 21/07;

Law on the Legal Status of a Church, Religious Community and a Religious Group, Official Gazette of Republic of Macedonia no. 113/07 dated 20.09.2007;

Maclure J., Tylor C., & Todd J. M., (2011), “Secularism and Freedom of Conscience”, Cambridge University Press;

Merdjanova I., (2016), "Overhauling Interreligious Dialogue for Peacebuilding", Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe: Vol. 36: Iss. 1, article 3, p. 33;

Radio MOF, (2013),“UKIM again started the academic year in a church”, 15 September. Available, [Accessed 24 October 2017];

Repo N., (2016), “Interreligious Distrust and Reconciliation in the Western Balkans: The Republic of Macedonia as a Case Study”, Journal of Balkan Studies ‘Balkania’;

Trpchevska D., (2012), “The prayer did not violate secularity, daily newspaper”, Utrinski, vesnik, 19 September;

UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), ICCPR General Comment No. 22: Article 18 (Freedom of Thought, Conscience or Religion), 30 July 1993, CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, para.4-6, 8. Available from:, [Accessed 27 October 2017];

United Nations Charter, 24 October 1945;

Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Articles 1, 2, 7 and 18;

US Department of State, 2015 International Religious Freedom Report (Macedonia), p. 4, 6. Available, [Accessed 24 October 2017];

US Department of State, 2016 International Religious Freedom Report (Macedonia), p.1-2, 5, 6. Available from:, [accessed 28 October 2017];

-Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969, Article 18, 26, 30, 59.

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) of 1969, Article 26;

Zarevska R., (2011), “Islamic community in Macedonia: Followers should not go to objects of Skopje 2014”, daily newspaper Nova Makedonija, 15 November;

Zuckerman P., & Shook R. J., (2017), “The Oxford Handbook on Secularism”, Oxford University Press, 2017;

Review Articles