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  1. I am of the unusual opinion that if you are going to ban Jehovah's Witness activity is Russia, then it is a good thing, not a bad thing, to also ban the New World Translation and seize the branch headquarters building. Each drags in people who might not otherwise care. Human rights people protest when Witness activity is banned, but it is partly offset by: 'well, they ARE a pain and they DO call unannounced at inconvenient times. But when you ban the Bible - even ringleader Dvorkin thought that was going too far. It plainly is a Bible; he doesn't like it, but it plainly is one. His country looks like a nation of goons. He is as if to say: 'we cut them off from U.S. organizational and monitory support. That's enough. Break both their legs and they will die! You don't ban the Bible as well, which only make us look like a country where Fred Flintstone is chief. I say ban it for exactly that reason. The academic community couldn't believe it. The Russian expert witness to the Court, an ex-JW, has an education that "doesn't correspond to anything" (mathematics degree) and she just "copies any sort of nonsense off the internet." She had the court harrumphing that it doesn't say 'Bible' on the cover, but 'Sacred Scriptures,' also that it said Hebrew and Greek Scriptures instead of Old and New Testament. She had them perturbed over its use of the name Jehovah, and then it was pointed out the Russian Orthodox version also uses the name. They got concerned that the Jehovah's Witness Bible doesn't support the Trinity and our people showed them that the Russian Orthodox translation also doesn't support it. The Court is plodding about in matters of which it is completely ignorant, Dvorkin fumed, and it shows painfully. Good. Let the record reflect that. The decision regarding the branch headquarters draws in the potentially much more influential business community. Said the Witness representative: "Of course, we will appeal this decision. It is based on nothing, except the desire of the prosecutor's office to simply seize the property. We did not hear a single legal argument. This is expropriation. Russia encourages foreign business to invest in the country, but what investments can be made if the property is not protected and can be seized at any time?" I say it is a good thing for them to seize the building. It cannot serve its intended function anyway. Let it serve its new purpose of calling attention to lawlessness. One Russian news source opined they will ultimately give it back accompanied by huge financial damage penalties. Witnesses will take the matter to the ECHR and also, since the Watchtower Society is American-based, "the American one," whatever that means. If you are going to go unjust, do it big time and make sure everyone knows. The Governing Body saw to it that the initial trial was videotaped in the largest venue possible. That video is widely available. At one point the Russian judge asked the Ministry of Justice whether it had prepared for the trial, so unsupported was their case. In the end, he did what he knew he had to do if he wanted to keep his job, but his interaction with them clearly exposed a sham system, which was repeated at the appeal, repeated again at the trial over the Bible, and again at the hearing to confiscate the branch headquarters. And it was repeated in the case in the imprisonment without trial of Dennis Christensen, the first Witness jailed post-ban, and a Danish citizen. The Ministry of Justice insists he is a dangerous criminal. His last religious act was to preside over a typical Bible study at the Kingdom Hall. His last non-religious act was to build a playground (he is a carpenter) for the children. His second-to-last non-religious act was to take part in a public park cleanup for which the congregation received a certificate of appreciation from the town officials. A lot of people don't like Jehovah's Witnesses - they are a hot-button topic in several ways. But they do know that rule by law and even common sense is a good thing, not a bad thing and when they see it so arbitrarily violated, they get more worked up than they would over Witnesses themselves.
  2. MOSCOW, April 12. /TASS/. Russia’s Supreme Court has heard the testimony of four former members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who said they had been subjected to ‘total control’ in that religious organization, with no possibility to receive higher education or start a family, TASS reports from the courtroom. Specifically, witness Natalia Koretskaya from St. Petersburg told the court she had been a member of that organization from 1995 to 2009 and had realized over this period that the organization’s members “were living under full and total control of the [Jehovah’s Witnesses] Administrative Center.” “The heads of the Jehovah’s Witnesses formally watch canonical compliance with the norms but in real fact the talk is about total control of an individual’s personal life – his intimate life, education and work,” witness Koretskaya said. In response to the court’s request to give the facts of such control, Koretskaya said she had been expelled from the religious organization and its members had been banned to communicate with her after she had started close but officially unregistered relationship with a man. “Therefore, a person turns out to be expelled into the outer world, in which he has already forgotten how to live over the years of his stay in the organization,” Koretskaya said. The Justice Ministry’s second witness, Pavel Zverev, told the court he had become a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the age of 16 and had not received higher education on persuasion of the organization’s heads. “It is accepted in the organization that receiving higher education is useless if this is not in the organization’s interests. As a result of such persuasion, I remained without education and I’m suffering from that in my life,” said Zverev who had worked as a volunteer for two years in the organization’s Administrative Center in the capacity of a cook. The other two witnesses also said they had suffered from the religious organization’s excessive control of their private life and from the ban to communicate with its other members after quitting it, as well as from depression and alcoholism. Thus, witness Nina Petrova from Volgograd said that on persuasion of her spiritual mentors she did not marry and did not start a family. “They convinced me that a family was not needed as the doomsday was close at hand. And when I realized that this was a delusion, it was late,” Petrova said, adding that she had stayed in the organization for 28 years. For their part, representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses said the witnesses had been prepared in advance for their testimony in the court. “We see that the witnesses are giving testimony based on written materials, repeating the arguments of the so-called sectological literature. Some of them are mentioned in public sources as activists of the movements that are struggling with the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” a lawyer for the defendants said. At its next hearing on April 19, the court is expected to study the written materials of the case and may hear the parties’ oral statements. Essence of the lawsuit In its lawsuit to outlaw the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Justice Ministry pointed to various violations in the organization’s activities revealed during a surprise inspection, including breaches of the Law on Counteracting Extremist Activities. The ministry has asked to recognize the organization and its 395 local branches as extremists, ban their activity and seize property. For its part, the organization’s press service told TASS that they were alarmed by the decision, since it could affect 175,000 active believers. The Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman Ivan Bilenko said the organization was prepared to press for its rights in any courts. The Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organization that supports offbeat views on the essence of the Christian faith and provides special interpretations of many commonly accepted notions. In Russia, it had 21 local organizations but three of them were eliminated for extremism.
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  3. If you want to help about 200,000 of Russian Jehovah's Witnesses avoid being jailed on false, unjust, and absurd grounds, please join our campaign to promote the hashtag #StopJWBan across Twitter and any other social media. This would be our version of the global letter-writing campaign to Mr. Putin. You can post a suitable video (like this one), a piece from Jehovah's Witnesses websites, or anything you want to share, adding this hashtag. The more people will do it, the more likely it will appear in top Twitter trends, and this will create a powerful information wave. Ask power Twitter users and/or bloggers that you know to do the same. Don't stand apart, help us spread the word!You may just click on this button to tweet instantly: #StopJWBan #StopJWBan (Russian)
  4. RUSSIAN JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES LAUNCH HASHTAG IN SOCIAL NETWORKS BECAUSE OF THREAT OF BANNING THEIR ACTIVITY IN THE COUNTRY Portal-Credo.ru, 25 March 2017 Late in March Russian Jehovah's Witnesses began a campaign for promoting on the Internet the hashtag #StopJWBan in order to attract attention to the threat of a ban on their confession. Thanks to the action, in just one day almost 20 thousand persons viewed on YouTube a video appeal of Vasily Kalin, the director of the Administrative Center of their confession, a Portal-Credo.ru correspondent reports. "They don't let us defend ourself in courts and they do not admit us to major news media. Only the Internet remains," the campaign on the website, stopjwban.blogspot.com, says. The action is actively connected to believers beyond the boundaries of the country. Twitter users from various countries have published on the aforementioned hashtag photographs of their own letters to Russian authorities, the American president, the United Nations, and other international organizations. The hearing in the Supreme Court of the RF on the lawsuit of the justice ministry is scheduled for 5 April, which requests declaring the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses to be "extremist" and liquidating it. ------------------ Rights advocate fears criminalization of tens of thousands believers BAN OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND DECLARATION OF THIS ORGANIZATION AS EXTREMIST VIOLATE FREEDOM OF RELIGION Echo of Moscow, 17 March 2017 Consideration of the lawsuit of the Russian Ministry of Justice for ruling the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" to be an extremist organization and for liquidating it and banning its activity on the territory of the country has been scheduled by the Supreme Court of the RF for 5 April Granting the lawsuit by the court will be an act that is unconstitutional and a violation of freedom of religious confession. This opinion was expressed on a broadcast of radio station Echo of Moscow by the director of the SOVA Center for News and Analysis, Alexander Verkhovsky. "Of course this violates freedom of religious confession, because there already have been many bans of local organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses and prohibition of their brochures, texts, and website. And they are considered to be extremist simply because they themselves consider that their religion is best of all. Speaking frankly, this is a bit wild," he said. A. Verkhovsky emphasized that the ban of the Administrative Center will entail the automatic ban of all local organizations. "Believers are not going anywhere from this, they will all still gather together, and all this activity can be viewed as a criminal offense. I do not rule out that such measures will be applied. It will turn out that more than 100,000 persons will prove to be in some sense criminals although they do not intend to commit a crime. I think that somebody needs to intervene now. The prosecutor general's office has gone much too far," he concluded. ------------------ Another rights advocate speaks out for Jehovah's Witnesses AFTER THE BAN OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES WE WILL GET 170,000 PRISONERS FOR FAITH IN RUSSIA Blog of Oleg Kozyrev, 17 March 2017 The Ministry of Justice has requested closing the chief organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. The old accusations are extremism and other furious passions. Jehovah's Witnesses belong to the so-called new religions. Neither the traditional Christian confessions nor protestants acknowledge them as their own. Like Mormons, Jehovists incorporate some Christian teaching, but beyond that they add much of their own. The greatest criticism is evoked by the point that Jehovists, alone of the major confessions, simply take and rewrite the Bible in their own way. This is the so-called "New World Translation," in which everything that does not conform to the teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses is casually corrected. Well, the doctrinal difference of Jehovists from ordinary Christians is great. At the same time, everybody recognizes that the Jehovah's Witnesses preach possibly more than all religious movements. Their life is, on the whole, pious. They do not drink, smoke, or take drugs, and they are faithful to their wives and husbands and are good fathers and mothers. On the personal level, all have different experiences of discourse with Jehovists. But on the whole their situation does not differ in any way from representatives of other confessions. Some Jehovists are more reserved and some are more congenial and social, generally like everybody. Problems with the surrounding setting and with the state arise for the Jehovists only on two issues. First, they do not accept blood transfusion, since they believe that this is a form of cannibalism. Second, they do not engage in politics, nor serve in the army, nor celebrate holidays. It is easiest to criticize Jehovists for refusing blood transfusion. But let's be honest, there are in the world thousands of various religions and many of them have various strange restrictions. Jehovists do not damage bodies, nor restrict nourishment for themselves and their children, nor practice monasticism and withdrawal from the world. They work, study, live, and proclaim. Why imprison them merely for their faith? I recall that even during World War II, Hitler was not able to break Jehovists by torture and concentration camps. Many of them perished in ovens and gas chambers, but they did not betray their faith and did not take up arms. I do not think that the Ministry of Justice will manage to frighten them if Hitler could not. We will get 170,000 (the approximate number of Jehovists in Russia) prisoners of conscience, who are imprisoned merely for faith. And there may be some number of additional broken fates. Christians have a dark cloud of criticisms of Jehovists. But that is our "disputes." Everything can be clarified through preaching, through criticism, through apologetics. Why involve the government? The Jehovists are not some kind of dark forest. They have been in the world for many years and they are in almost all countries. Let's admit that they are a rather ordinary religion. Sure, somebody is annoyed that they are ringing the doorbell. But if one realizes that among them there are former drug addicts and alcoholics who could ring the doorbell for entirely different reasons—then it is better to let the Jehovists ring the bell. For the fact that people are striving for a proper life—for that they should not be punished. There is also one other rather sticky issue. Because of their faith, Jehovah's Witnesses cannot, on principle, defend themselves in any way politically, since they do not participate in politics. They are not Mormons with their own state of Utah; they are not Disciples of Christ or Baptists with their own presidents leading the USA. In principle Jehovists do not have political forces that could protect them. And of course Christian confessions love to exploit these, who have such representation and who have their own teeth for this effect. I will not talk about other confessions. Perhaps if they were banned, their people would flee. But as to Jehovah's Witnesses, we know what will happen. The majority of them will not renounce their faith. So what then—send them to the camps? And repeat what the fascists did? Think about it: do we need to break the life of 170,000 persons?

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