Ukrainian Orthodox Church Enlists US Lobbyist Amidst Rising Tensions, Faces Allegations of Religious Persecution as Legislation Threatens Ban
Amidst increasing tensions in Ukrainian society towards the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-MP, Ukraine is contemplating legislation to outlaw religious entities affiliated with Russia, potentially leading to legal action against Ukrainian Orthodox Church-MP parishes.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) has reportedly enlisted the services of a US lobbyist at an hourly rate of $1400 to advance its interests in the United States
Accusations against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-MP suggest it maintains ties with the Moscow Patriarchate, which endorsed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-MP claiming to have severed these ties in May 2022, it alleges religious persecution by the Ukrainian state, including searches of Ukrainian Orthodox Church-MP premises, criminal cases against clergy accused of aiding Russian aggression, and legislative efforts to outlaw the church.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-MP’s narrative of religious persecution has gained traction among US Republicans, with figures like Tucker Carlson asserting that “Ukraine persecutes Christians.” The lobbying agreement, signed with law professor William Whitney Berk-White, stipulates an hourly rate of $1400, commencing on October 16, 2023.
However, controversy surrounds the lobbying contract, as it lists the address of the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” as St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kyiv, which belongs to the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).
OCU hierarch Metropolitan Yevstratiy alleges that the contract was orchestrated by a firm hired by Ukrainian Orthodox Church-MP archdeacon Vadym Novynskyi to disseminate Moscow Patriarchate propaganda
The filing reveals that Amsterdam and Partners LLP, the source of the $7000 payment to the lobbyist, had been retained by Novynskyi in August 2023 to counter alleged politically motivated attacks by the Ukrainian government. A recent op-ed from The Hill argues against potential legislative bans on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-MP, questioning Ukraine’s commitment to human rights.
On October 21, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law in the first reading, suggesting potential measures against religious organizations with ties to Russia. The law proposes a complex process, involving the State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience, to determine ties to Russia and initiate legal action, potentially taking years for a ban to be enforced.