Recently, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the spiritual leadership of the Armed Forces, RA Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan made a noteworthy statement about the connection between the state and the church. In particular, Minister Sargsyan noted, “The Church can be separate neither from the state, nor from the army. It is fixed in our Constitution, the legislation, and most importantly, in the heart of every Armenian. For us, the battlefield has also dealt with clergymen who have never stayed behind and have often led the Armenian troops.
Spiritual leadership in the armed forces was established during the reign of Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin I, and later strengthened with the blessing of Catholicos Karekin II. It is the force that should make our army unique. It is the force that should be an important means of forming a national spirit and a new environment in our armed forces”.
Before addressing this statement, it is worth noting that recently officials and MPs often refer to the state-church relations, and Vigen Sargsyan is not the only one in this respect. But leaving aside the discussion on the effectiveness of state-church or armed forces-church relations, let us refer to the Constitution, which is considered “main legal act” of the Republic of Armenia, and see what connection is stipulated between the church and the state.
Thus, Articles 17 and 18 of the RA Constitution, with the amendments of 2005, state:
“Article 17. The State and Religious Organizations
- The freedom of activities of religious organizations shall be guaranteed in the Republic of Armenia.
- Religious organizations shall be separate from the state.
Article 18. The Armenian Apostolic Holy Church
- The Republic of Armenia shall recognize the exclusive mission of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church as a national church in the spiritual life of the Armenian people, in the development of their national culture and preservation of their national identity.
- The relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church may be regulated by law.”
Thus, it is not difficult to infer that according to the Constitution, as a religious organization, the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church is separate from the state regardless of its mission of national, cultural development in the lives of the Armenian people and preservation of national identity.
Meanwhile, Vigen Sargsyan (and not only him) is trying to present something that is, according to him, inscribed in the heart of every Armenian as a requirement of the RA Constitution, and legislation. And this is purely a rhetorical trick, and, as has already been noted, it has absolutely nothing to do with reality.