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Russian duma fights extortion by religious sects

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Activity of religious organizations in Russia will be certified
by Tatiana Zykova
Rossiiskaia Gazeta—Nedelia, 3 March 2016
According to expert estimates, from 300 to 500 sects are active in Russia. They involve up to 800,000 citizens, a great portion of them youth. The figures are frightening.
Now a law is being prepared on the certification of the activity of religious organizations and they will be taken under special oversight. A working group of deputies from all four fractions of parliament is developing the document, the chairman of the State Duma Committee on Affairs of Property, Sergei Gavrilov, told RG.
In addition, it is planned to strengthen control of the financing of foreign religious organizations. The most active sects, according to deputies, have centers in the USA and they are sponsored from there
"And what is the extent of financing, Sergei Antolievich?"
"Around a billion dollars. The majority of religious associations have been turned into full-fledged profitable business.
"The sources of the financing are cash. It arrives through couriers and electronic and money transfers. As a rule, religious activity itself is not being financed but so-called missionary quasi-social projects. For example, penetration of the schools goes on through the preparation of textbooks.
"Often under the guise of aid to disabled persons a bunch of corresponding literature is imported into the country. It is given out in underground passageways and near stores. It is distributed through mailboxes.
"Whole regions are falling under the influence of different kinds of missionaries.
"The main blow was delivered among indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic and the North. That is, among people who live in harmony with nature. And their simplicity is exploited and the fates of dozens and hundreds of families are maimed.
"Numerous financial 'pyramids' and scamming of money and property are yet another side of the coin of draining of the resources of the population. Remember, 43 million rubles and dozens of apartments transferred to his name were found in the possession of the so-called god Kuzya."
"But people contribute voluntarily. Nobody is prohibited from parting with his own property. How do you deal with this?"
"We should understand that when falling into a sect, people do not voluntarily part from their property. It is necessary to understand the difference.
"The methods of work of many sects are built on extortion and fraud, with the use of psychic or psychological coercion and force.
"Some of them explicitly urge citizens to sell their apartments and settle in the woods and seek salvation there. We already have more than thirty such 'eco-settlements,' and the right to reside in them costs 30 thousand dollars.
"Judicial practice has shown that persons victimized by sects often go to court for recovery of property—automobiles, furniture, apartments, houses—from illegal alienation of property. And also for a ruling that transactions of alienation or transfer of property rights are invalid.
"In addition, there are numerous criminal cases connected with fraud in the execution of real estate transactions. Existing rules still make it difficult to apply them to organizations that by means of coercion encourage citizens to transfer financial resources and other property to the benefit of a sect. We definitely need to eliminate this gap."
"There is no concept of 'sect' in Russian legislation."
"That is true. There is the concept of 'religious group' and 'religious organization.' Even when we prohibit in court or convict leaders of misanthropic sects or cults, we call them destructive, totalitarian, or extremist religious groups and organizations.
"Today such an approach is outdated. Even the term 'religious' is inapplicable to such organizations, because they have an entirely different character.
"In essence, there have been formed in Russia very closed, tight-knit, aggressive communities in which the minds and actions of citizens are controlled. For example, pressure on the psyche with the use of psychotropic substances, including narcotics, is being practiced. The goal is to tear people from traditional morals and values. In practice this leads to the fact that many preachers urge ignoring elections, not serving in the army, not paying taxes, not using visas when crossing borders, and resettling illegally. All this is extremely dangerous."
"How do you propose to combat this?"
"We have suggested to the Russian Security Council, power structures, and the Ministry of Justice to work out together new methods, technologies, and criteria of compliance for permitting religious activity and access to work with youth and children. Among the determining criteria are the use of psychic techniques of influencing consciousness and attempts to seize property from citizens.
"And organizers should be examined for extremism. Foreign financing should be eliminated or taken under oversight. Each foreign transfer should be explained and reexamined.
"This requires systematic work by the Ministry of Justice and Rosfinmonitoring, the FNS, and the Ministry of Education and Science, all under the supervision of the Security Council.
"Today even intelligence agencies deal with creepy occult sects years after the beginning of their activity. And what do we have against their organizers? Small fines up to 300 thousand rubles and corrective labor. Punishment must be toughened."
"How can the situation be corrected legislatively?"
"The changes which the deputies are preparing deal directly with several laws: on combating money laundering, on freedom of conscience, and also the Criminal Code.
"New measures of prevention are proposing work with the population, especially with youth. The draft law indicates that the activity of religious organizations for whom work of more than 25 to 30 years has been proven should be under special oversight.
"Any religious activity in the country should be certified. And people who begin to work in the market of religious services, as they think it to be, should understand that they fall under the strict control of the government from the first step and they will be examined for extremism."

Russian original posted on Interfax-Religiia site, 3 March 2016

In Moscow arrested the leader of the sect of «God Kuzi», the suspected fraud




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