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Anti-Missionary Law In Russia


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«Anti-missionary law» adopted in Russia in July 2016 was broadly discussed in English media. It has seriously limited proselytism activity of all religious organizations in Russia, except the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). Background of the law amendment was not well studied so far. Here is review of the background, based on a research provided by our reader. It gives better picture of who was behind and lobbied the amendment.

The law amendment regulating missionary activity in Russia was adopted on the federal level and went in force on 20 July 2016. The amendments were proposed as part of the «package» of other different amendments introduced by «United Russia» political party MPs Irina Yarovaya, Aleksey Pushkov, Nadezhda Gerasimova and senator Viktor Ozerov. Among regulation of the missionary activity the amendments introduced tightening of liability for extremism and terrorism acts, control over correspondence by post offices and responsibility for mobile operators and internet-providers to store traffic of customers (taped phone conversations, SMS, all internet traffic etc.). The amendments got known under name Yarovaya Law.

However Irina Yarovaya, as well as other authors, were rather formal initiators of the amendments, talking about those amendments regulating missionary activity, and the real background of this is much deeper.

 

WHAT WAS ADOPTED

 

The amendments were introduce in the «Law On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations» (the main law regulating religious activity in Russia) and in the Code of Administrative Offenses.

The amendments determine missionary activity as activity aimed to involve new individual in a religious organization. All missioners should have written permit from the religious organization to conduct such activity and should conduct it only in that region where the organization is registered in. Foreign missioners could not perform missionary activity in Russia. No children may be involved in a religious organization without consent of parents. Types of places where the missionary activity can be conducted are seriously limited. Full analysis of the amendments you can find in the Forum18's article.

 

RESPONSE OF RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS

 

In June 2016 all the major religious communities of Russia spoke up against adoption of the amendments, except one — the Russian Orthodox Church.

The First Deputy Chairman of the Muftis Council of Russia Rushan Abbyasov said that in case of adoption of the amendments «the religious organizations themselves will suffer again, but not the fight against extremism and terrorism, as stated.» For the fight against terrorism, he said, need to «find some solution which on the one hand, would not affect the rights of people of faith — that is, our religious organizations — and, on the other hand, we would think together of how to deal with this phenomenon which threatens the whole world.»

The President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia rabbi Alexander Borodasure that amendments contradict the constitutional principle of religious freedom. «The great disadvantage of the bill is that legislator does not specified the exact criteria of differentiation of religious and missionary activity, so the law can be "perverted" as one would like, and can be used wording advantageous in a specific situation». The representative of Jewish believes that «the issue of spreading the faith is sufficiently resolved by the legislation of the Russian Federation already», and the proposed amendments are «very substantially change the situation in work of the religious structures, including traditional for Russia, and obviously for the worse».

The Advisory Council of the Heads of Russian Protestant Churches on 23 June sent a special appeal to the President Vladmir Putin asking to reject amendments on missionary activity. Bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky said that «the proposed amendments are themselves extremists. According to them, the most severe censorship is introduced under the threat of large fines on any conversations on religious topics (referred to as «missionary activity») outside of the confessional and buildings without special permits. Even the atheistic Bolshevik legislation of 1929 of year did not contain such a bans».

The Head of the Legal Department of the Russian Orthodox Church Ksenia Chernega said «We hope that new rules will apply to non-traditional religious organizations with sectarian orientation. But if they apply to religious organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church, then surely we will raise the issue of the adjustment of the bill».

«We believe that this is a much better option of legal regulation of missionary activity. However, emphasize that if this law will create obstacles for missionary activity of religious organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church, then, of course, we will initiate the amendments. Although the current version is perfectly acceptable, we think», — Ksenia Chernega said on 24 June 2016 toRIA Novosti.

More reaction of different religious leaders in Russia and abroad are presented in the article of the worldwatchmonitor.org.

Despite all the noise the amendments were approved by the Senate and the President Vladimir Putin during two weeks and got in force on the 20 Jule 2016.

 

THE MISSIONARY LAW IN DIFFERENT REGIONS OF RUSSIA

 

To regulate missionary activity in Russia is not a new idea at all. A big lobby was in different regions of Russia to demonstrate a need of regulation of missionary activity on the federal level. Discussions on adopting amendments on missionary activity goes for many years — started even before adoption of the «Law On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations» in 1997.

The original main religious law of Russia, called «The Law On Freedom of Religion», was adopted in 1990. It was very liberal and provided equal rights for all religions of Russia. Up to 1997 many new religious movements as well as traditional once obtained official registration in the Ministry of Justice, first since the Soviet Union. But the law was seriously changed in 1997 because of lobby of the Russian Orthodox Church. Presupposed preferences to the traditional religions of Russia, emphasizing the Orthodoxy, was included in the preamble of the law. Since that time the ROC has being advocating a limitation of activity of missioner of other religions in Russia.

 

Belgorod Region

 

The Belgorod Region is one of the most Orthodox region of Russia.

The first ever law to regulate missionary activity was adopted in the Belgorod Region on 21 November 1996 and got in force on 2 December 1996 under the name «On The Missionary Activity Of Religious Organizations And Missionaries In The Belgorod Region». The law prescribed all foreign missioners invited by a religious organization registered in the Belgorod Region to obtain permit of the Ministry of Justice of the region first.

19 March 2001 this law was replaced by other one (more tough) which is very similar to the current federal law. The law obligated missioners to have written permit from a religious organization they represents, the law regulates places where the religious activity can be conducted, forbids involving kids in the activity, obligates all missioners from the other areas of Russia and abroad to provide ID and other documents to the Ministry of Justice before they can start missionary activity and few other points.

The initiative of the adoption of the new regional law belonged to the governor of Belgorod Region Evgeny Savchenko — stated in the report of the Moscow Helsinki Group of 2001. Evgeny Savchenko is the governor since 1993. He is member of the «United Russia» political party,supports the Russia Orthodox Church, familiar to the Patriarch Kirill and in good relation with the Metropolitan of the Belgorod Region Ioann Popov.

 

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Vladimir Putin and Metropolitan Ioann Popov, 2013 / Kremlin.ru

 

 

Ioann Popov confirmed that the law was adopted to block activity of «totalitarian sects» intentionally. JW, Pentecostals and adventists begun to report about troubles they encounter in missionary activity. For example, the law was used by the Administration of Belgorod city to deny JW in permission to hold a public event on a square as JW could not provide guarantees that the square would not be visited by a passing by kid while they need to get written permission from the kid"s parents. In the same time a similar public events of the ROC were approved.

In 2001 representatives of several religious organizations (Pentecostals, Baptists, Adventists and others) sent letter to the OCSE, the Administration of President of Russia and the Administration of Belgorod Region asking to cancel the law. Following this, the Regional Prosecutor filed complaint to the Regional Administration and then to the Regional Court demanding cancellation of the law as it violates constitutional rights of citizens. But his appeals was rejected. For some reason, representative of the Belgorod Diocese of the ROC was one protecting the law in that trials providing arguments of its lawful. The prosecutor appealed to the Supreme Court of Russia, but got his appeal was denied as well.

17 December 2009 Portal-Credo.ru wrote: «The Belgorod Diocese of the ROC for several years conducted a propaganda campaign for the adoption of similar laws in the regions of Russia, the campaign was entitled Can Russia live by the law of Belgorod?».

 

Arkhangelsk Region

 

22 October 2015 the similar "missionary law" was adopted in the Arkhangelsk Region by the Regional Duma based on the proposals of regional MPs Alexander Dyatlov and Ekaterina Pozdeeva.

Pravoslavie.ru wrote: «The document was supported by the clergy of traditional religions, anti-cult movements and representatives of the regional department of the FSB and the regional government. In particular, Deputy Governor Roman Balashov supported the law.»

The bill was supported by the Metropolitan of Arkhangelsk Region Daniel — he sent letter to the Chairman of the regional Duma:

«Destructive religious organizations are freely conduct recruiting activities, accompanied by the large-scale advertising campaigns, including on the basis of municipal institutions, which creates the illusion of legitimacy; distribute printed materials, conduct pickets, build «praying houses». Numerous complaints from residents were received by the Arkhangelsk Diocese, they complain about the active dissemination of destructive cults and sects. The region has recorded cases where the activity of sects led to the families breakdown, the disappearance of the children, the loss of property of citizens, suicide attempts and disability. And often this takes place under the guise of preaching religious activity which is very far from the real religious orientation».

Adoption of the law was supported by Patriarch Kirill. Answering the question of MP Ekaterina Pozdeeva at one of the meetings in Moscow he said:

«The lack of any kind of monitoring and control of such actions encourages people to dishonest behavior. When under the guise of religious preaching a non-religious sermon is carried out, when a totally incomprehensible religious groups with centers far outside Russia act under the guise of Orthodoxy even. Therefore, a state that cares about its citizens and realize the importance of spiritual security, has the right to protect itself legally from these kind of activities, which in itself carries a certain substitution, even a kind of a lie».

 

Other regions

 

Similar laws were adopted in other regions of Russia. All of them are very similar to the Belgorod one:

• Voronezh Oblast in 1999.

• Smolensk Oblast in 2003.

• Kursk Oblast in 2004.

• Kostroma Oblast in 2005 (supported by the local FSB).

• Novgorod Oblast in 2014. The bill was submitted by the Vise-Governor Igor Verkhodanov whospoke up against Mormons supporting adoption of the law and later about a missioners from USA. Regional prosecutor tried to appeal the law but was denied in the Regional Court as well as Supreme Court of Russia.

• Pskov Oblast in 2015.

• Tambov Oblast in May 2016. Chairman of the Regional Duma Evgeny Matyushkin said that the idea to introduce the law provided by the Orthodox Metropolitan and some social activists. He added: «Our task — to protect people from bad influences as much as possible. This law will regulate the activities of various sects and inhumane movements.»

• Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in May 2016. The local MPs were bothered about «non-traditional» religious organizations.

 

ATTEMPTS TO ADOPT THE LAW ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL

 

 

The first attempt

 

The first attempt to adopt the law on the federal level was in August 2006. The Ministry of Justice based on order of the Government prepared the bill and sent it to different religious organizations for their reviews.

 

Lawyer of the ROC Ksenia Chernega commented the bill: «First of all I would like to emphasize that the initiative on development the bill to regulate missionary activity deserves support. At the same time, the bill proposed by the Ministry of Justice needs serious revision.» She told that the ROC provided their amendments for the bill.

Chairman of the Russian Baptists Uriy Sipko spoke up against the bill stating they were not sent the bill while other religious organizations received it for their reviews, and when he found out about the bill he said it should not be adopted. «In the explanatory memorandum to the bill by representatives of the Ministry of Justice, they referred to the need to organize missionary activities in order to combat proselytism. Thus, the state directly interferes in the sphere of inter-church relations and operates with theological concepts. Will it help to preserve inter-religious peace and harmony?» — he said.

The bill was not adopted. More about this bill you can find at the web-site of Forum 18.

 

The second attempt

 

The second attempt to adopt the bill on the federal level was in 2009. At this time anti-cultist Alexander Dvorkin was actively involved in lobbying the bill.

Here is the full translation of the article published by the Orthodox news-site Pravmir.ru on 15 October 2009, it gives good picture on the bill and motives:

Once a bill to amend the Federal Law «On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations» and the Code of Administrative Offenses was published at the official website of the Ministry of Justice, a controversy sparked in the society about how actually the law will affect religious organizations. Will it help to fight against sects or prohibit representatives of traditional religions to carry out the mission? We have tried to understand this with the help of experts.

Event

September 18, 2009 at the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation held a roundtable to discuss the amendments to the Federal Law «On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations» and the Code of Administrative Offenses. The additions and changes proposed by the Ministry of Justice are entirely directed at resolving the missionary activity.

The meeting was attended by representatives of various religious organizations. Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Vsevolod Chaplin and Legal Advisor of the Moscow Patriarchate Ksenia Chernega spoke from name of the Russian Orthodox Church at the round table.

The bill (some provisions)

«Missionary activity for the present Federal law recognizes the activities of religious associations, designed to spread their faith among non-members, participants, followers of a religious association, in order to involve these people in religious association, and carried out by religious organizations or authorized persons directly, publicly, through the mass media or by other lawful means. It is not missionary work of religious associations within the buildings and religious buildings and related areas, and other places, provided on an ongoing basis to this religious association for the commission of worship and other religious rites and ceremonies, pilgrimage places, institutions and enterprises of religious organizations, cemeteries and crematoria.»

«The right of a religious organization to carry out missionary activity occurs after the date of its state registration. The right of religious groups to carry out missionary activity arises from the date of notification about the establishment of a religious group and the beginning of its activities to the relevant federal body of state registration of the territorial authority.»

«It is forbidden to practice missionary activity: 1) of persons who do not have a special document; 2) temporarily staying in the Russian Federation, foreign citizens and persons without citizenship; 3) persons convicted by a court sentence for inciting ethnic and religious hatred or other crimes of an extremist nature; 4) within the religious facilities belonging to another religious association, without the written consent of the governing body; 5) followed by the offer of material, social and other benefits with the aim of involving citizens in the religious association or the threat of violence, psychological oppression, manipulation of consciousness, that is, carried out in defiance of the will of the persons to whom it is directed; 6) in health care and hospitals, orphanages, homes for the elderly and disabled without the consent of the administration of these institutions and individuals in these institutions (their legal representatives, guardians); 7) within the administrative buildings of state authorities or local governments and its buildings land.»

«Involvement of a minor in the activity of a religious association against his will and (or) without the consent of his parents or other legal representatives by the minor invited to participate in meetings of a religious association or by not impeding the minor to participate in meetings of a religious association, by talks with the minor, by providing him/her with the materials of the religious organization, as well as providing material benefits to a minor for participation in the activities of the religious association — punishable by an administrative fine on citizens in the amount of two thousand to five thousand rubles for legal entities — from five to ten thousand rubles.»

Expert opinions

Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev, professor of the Moscow Theological Academy:

«I am no longer a missionary» — with these words Andrei Kuraev spoke in his personal blog on 12 October. Also he wrote:

«I'm not a missionary, because I do not have the proper certificate. Read the bill introduced by the Ministry of Justice.

There is no difference between a professional missionary and situational. If a granny in a train will start a conversation with a fellow traveler about her illnesses and Blessed Matrona — it is that, it is necessary to fine?

Since the bill does not say «this does not apply to the deacon Kuraev», I believe that gag is shoved in my mouth also.

When I saw that the temple entered by a child without parents, and I am not stopped him and called the police — I have to pay a fine? It is even more tough than in the Khrushchev time».

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations:

«This bill has been discussed for a long time, and a working group meeting of the Commission for Religious Associations under the Russian Government and the Ministry of Justice meetings are always held with the participation of representatives of religious organizations, including the Russian Orthodox Church. Recently, the draft bill has been amended many times and probably still needs some adjustment. But its main idea — the need of legal regulation of missionary activity — is completely justified, I believe. Regional authorities, representatives of the public and journalists speaks about such regulation many, many years. Now we have a legal in this matter, which must be eliminated.»

In Russia, all religious communities are equal before the law, it can be a long debate whether this is good or bad. I think that is not very good. For example, the legislation of a number of European countries is much harder dividing sects and traditional religions. But at the moment our Constitution as it is, therefore the bill should be extended to all religious organizations.»

«I see justifiable desire to legislate connection of a missionary with religious community. I think that Father Andrei Kuraev, and any other missionary, could easily get certificate confirming they conduct missionary activity on behalf of the real religious organization.»

«Orthodox Christian will not suffer if he does not act alone, and in the context of the parish, in consultation with abbot and other members of the community.»

«Another thing is that the law does not preclude the fact that one person just talked to others about his faith. Conversations of people in everyday life — it's not missionary activity, provided that these discussions are not conducted against the will of one of the interlocutors. We must not be like Jehovah's Witnesses, who grabbed people's hands, stick to it, intimidated them.»

«A controversial point in the bill — the offer to introduce penalties for the involvement of minors in activities of religious associations. In my opinion, this proposal needs serious revision, I have just now discussed this issue with the officials of Ministry of Justice and seems to find understanding with them. It should be clearly defined, what is at stake: the consent of one parent or both, the oral or written consent. A situation is not clear where one parent, for example, welcomes the child's participation in religious services, and the other not.»

«In addition, it is important to clarify of what the age we talk. I believe that underage teen has the right to decide to visit the church or not. I myself, being the son of unbelieving parents, started to go into the temple at the age of thirteen. Of case, Mom and Dad were against. According to today's bill, then the priests who confessioned and communioned me, must be fined. Such strict rules were not inherent even even in Soviet times!»

«It is interesting that in the bill are not specifically spelled out how to regulate missionary work in the media. Personally, I do not believe that the statements of the priests, for example, in a live television broadcasts are covered by this law. Because broadcasting their beliefs to wide range of audience — it is not missionary work. In the law it is still the propagation of their faith among persons who are not its followers. I do not see stops for Andrey Kuraev and me in the media.»

Alexander Dvorkin, head of the Department of Sect Studies at the Missionary Faculty of the Saint Tikhon's Humanitarian Orthodox University, president of the Center for Religious Studies:

«I agree with the bill — in the form in which it exists today. Of course, we still have to negotiate, explain and clarify the particular details of the bill, but it seems to me that the general direction of the bill developers have been taken correctly. The fact that the law is necessary said a long time, it was clear that the uncontrolled pseudo-missionary activities should be somehow limited. I recall how 10-15 years ago in the regions of Russia even attempted to create their own laws to regulate missionary activity — and these laws, by the way, were much tougher than the current draft offered by the Ministry of Justice.»

«Now, with the arrival of Alexander Konovalov [as the Minister of Justice] and his team consisting of highly qualified professionals, the Ministry of Justice tried to solve this problem — to create such a law, which, on the one hand, would allow traditional religions take care of its flock peacefully and to engage in missionary work, and on the other hand — would shielded people from unscrupulous missionaries of various sects and swindlers, who under the guise of the mission carry out their own tasks that are very far from the true missionary.»

«I do not mind the fact that the bill «suffers» with a common approach. In Russia, there is no clear legal distinction between traditional and non-traditional religions, although it seems to me that sooner or later we come to this differentiation as it present in the laws of most European countries. But while it is not, it is very important to formulate the amendments so that law-abiding religious organization can not suffer from it. The authors of the project had to literally pass on the razor's edge, to not offend the right of traditional religions, for example, Orthodoxy, on the implementation of the mission to which they are intended. I think they are, in general, and on the whole, coped with this difficult task.»

«A very important aspect of the bill — the reinforcement of the ban on religion anonymity. In fact, in our country there are no punitive measures that would apply to those who violate the Federal Law «On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations», in which this prohibition is registered. The bill proposes the Ministry of Justice to patch a hole in our legislation and to introduce administrative responsibility for the confessional anonymity or pseudonymity. Sects very often use this loophole in the law, inviting people in a religious organizations either without name at all with a misleading name or hiding behind the symbolism, or the names of other organizations. Many times I have seen announcements of neo-Pentecostals with Orthodox crosses and invitations in the «Temple of the Holy Spirit» to anoint «"with oil brought from Jerusalem», which «will conduct a priest!». The portrait of the «priest» in a cassock and cross often attached. Or, Seventh-day Adventists, who have positioned themselves as a respectable Protestant denominations, too, do not shun methods of confessional anonymity. An example of their posters: «We invite you to a meeting with the teachers of the Zaoksky Theological Academy...». Who knows that this academy — is an Adventist educational institution? This unspecified in the ads usually. I"m not talking about the Mormons that lure people through free English lessons, or «Marian Center" who come to the hospitals without any invitation of Administration and are dressed same as Orthodox priests.»

«At the first time the bill provides definition of missionary activity. All criticism of the project, we hear, it seems to me, most often it comes from people who do not read it carefully. The draft clearly states that missionary work — it"s not just talks about his faith, it is always a direct call to come to this or that organization at a certain address. And any believer has right to just to talk about his/her faith.»

«Only when a man invites his interlocutor to a specific organization, campaigning for it — his actions can be called a missionary activity. Now there is such situation: even when the police received complaints of harassment by an obsessive sectarians, then, when the complaint refer to the sect, they say: «We have nothing to do with these people, they act themselves, on their own initiative». The bill regulates this point: if citizens are engaged in missionary work on their own initiative, they must be willing to be held accountable. If they have a certificate from a religious organization that they have the right to engage in such activities, then — in violation of provisions of the law — the organization will be responsible for them.»

vI think all of respectable organizations will only benefit of such a procedure, because the amendments to the law will protect these organization from people who advocate some odd on their behalf.»

«But for a certain audience — sects — this law is extremely unfavorable, so they started making noise, screaming and possibly trying to confuse someone. Therefore, at the moment, I believe, the main task of the Ministry of Justice — to competently complete the project, take into account the comments to clarify points of contention, do explanatory work. And the main thing — to observe a thin, millimeter face that does not limit the freedom of conscience of citizens, but at the same time protect them from unscrupulous religious organizations and individual schemers who use loopholes in the law for selfish or ambitious purposes».

Protestants, Jewish, Muslims and other spoke up against this bill. The Russian Orthodox Church supported the bill again. The bill did not went through and was not adopted.

 

The third attempt

 

The amendments were adopted as part of the Yarovaya Law in July 2016. Until this moment anti-cultist and FECRIS vice-president Alexander Dvorkin systematically lobbied them. Here is excerpt from the article published at the official web-site of the Saratov Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church on 25 March 2016:

«A day ago meeting of the Council for Cooperation with the national and religious associations under the governor of the Saratov region took place. It has been ascertained by the fact that «at the present time in the Volga Region develops an alarming situation in the sphere of ethnic and religious related to the active recruitment in destructive and extremist communities» (excerpts of the decision accepted at the meeting). They discussed the question of a regional law that would protect society from extremist propaganda. The Metropolitan of Saratov and Volsky Longinus, speaking at the meeting, said that «...gaps in the law provides opportunity for a sectarian organizations to act. Therefore, a number of Russian regions have adopted laws "On missionary activity", which allow them to control public activities of sects». It is time to prepare similar law for Saratov region as well — the Regional Duma recommended to consider development of the bill. In this regard, we asked Alexander Dvorkin what is problems and how new law can solve it.

Alexander Dvorkin: «Adequate anti-sectarian legislation is very important for the country today. But it is not easy to adopt it and the main problem — the fact that the sects call themselves religious organizations and are covered by the Law on Freedom of Conscience. So before adopt the anti-sectarian legislation it is necessary to formulate the definition of the traditional religion. This concept is present in the preamble to the Law on Freedom of Conscience, but not explained there. Only when the traditional denomination is determined, its rights can be determined and so to make sure that anti-sectarian measures does not get spread on it.»

«The state today seeks to resist sects and holds a number of anti-sectarian processes, in particular again «Jehovah's Witnesses». Expertises are done and a number of materials of this sect recognized as extremist, and now members of the sect responsible for the use of extremist materials, for violation of the anti-extremist legislation. In some regions, such processes have ended in convictions. As usual, it is suspended sentences or fines. No one was imprisoned so far, and that is good — because the leaders of the «Jehovah's Witnesses» sect are dreaming about the real terms of conviction — not for himself, of course, but for followers. The management of the sect is sitting in peace in America and sets their people to ensure that they continue to violate the law, which is very useful for strengthening the sect: in fact is already unfolding international hysteria about the fact that allegedly violated the principles of freedom of conscience in Russia, «the peace believers» are persecuted.»

«So, the task of the law — to make sure that no ordinary sectarians are responsible for breaking the law, not those people who became victims of the sect, but the sect itself: to be responsible the financial and administrative; to violations of the law become a pretext for a trial that would have eliminated this sect. That"s why the law of missionary activity is needed, which is now made in a number of regions of Russia. In the end, it is very important that this law is passed at the federal level, but if regions will continue this work, the federal law will be accepted.»

«The main purpose of this law is that a religious organization gives a license to its members for the missionary activity. For the Orthodox and other traditional religions, enforcement of this law is not a difficulty absolutely: if the person is a minister of the denomination or an employee of one of its structures, he does not need the license, he represents the religious organization already. However, if the traditional religions will issue licenses for missionary activity, it is for security reasons from those people who are engaged in proclaiming something strange on behalf of the organization and thus compromising the Orthodox Church or Islam.»

«But for the Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, such a law would mean a lot, because in result the organization accountable for their missionaries finally. This will allow to combat this organization much more effectively. From this point of view, even a regional anti-sectarian law — is a step in the right direction. It will protect people against sectarian propaganda more effective than a litigation, where defendants are mostly a usual members of the sect, whose fate is entirely indifferent to the leaders of the sects who use them as cannon fodder, but «if something happens» they just abandon them and declare that these people have no relationship to the sect.»

 

dvorkin.jpg

Alexander Dvorkin, 2014 / photo by Elena Vakhrusheva

 

 

With the pressure the amendments were adopted at the federal level and got in force on 20 July 2016.

 

THOSE ALREADY PUNISHED

 

The amendments has being immediately applied to adherents of those religious organizations the ROC treats as sects. Amendments got in force on 20 July, the first case against a follower of Hare Krishna arise 27 July.

July 27, 2016 a complaint filed demanding to bring a follower of Hari Krishna Vadim Sibirev to administrative responsibility. The complaint filed by a resident of Cherkessk city to the police. The ground is that the follower talks about his faith and gave religious literature to two passers-by. 25-year-old Vadim Sibirev was prosecuted for «illegal missionary activity» despite the fact that he is not a representative of any religious organization and did not attempt to engage other people in any organization. Representative of the Anti-Extremism Department of police stated that such activity could not be held outside of a religious buildings. The sentence of Sibirev was appealed and 15 August the court decided to close the proceedings for lack of corpus delicti.

August 1, 2016 the district court of Tver city sentenced a citizen of the Republic of Ghana E. Tua for «illegal missionary activity». E. Tua is the leader of the local Christian religious groups of Evangelical (Pentecostal). The offense alleged that he «held religious ceremonies, posted information about its doctrine on the Internet, carried out missionary activities in the city of Tver, without the necessary documents and conditions». In addition, the violation considered the fact that a citizen of Ghana is with academic visa in Russia, but was engaged in missionary work, teaching and business activities, which is now allowed this type of visa. E. Tua admitted that he is leader of the religious group, however explained he was not involving new members in the group. The court decided to fine him of 50 thousand rubles.

August 14, 2016 the District Court of Orel city admitted US citizen Donald Osservaarde guilty for «illegal missionary activity» and sentenced to a fine of 40 thousand rubles. Baptiste Osservaarde having a residence permit in Russia since 2005, holds a meeting in his home to study the Bible. On August 12 three policemen came at the meeting, brought Donald to a police station and made the report about the offense. The main complaint were connected to the fact that D. Osservaarde placed ads about ongoing meetings in one of the areas of the city.

August 15, 2016 authorities of Noyabrsk city dismantled a children playground for the parishioners, organized at the prayer house of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Authorities concluded that the children can hear the sermon and prayer, and to have access to religious literature. On this basis, pastor Alexey Teleus was sentenced for «illegal missionary activity» and fined for 5 thousand rubles.

August 22, 2016 in Biysk city administrative case was started against Vladimir Knaub, the head of a local religious organization «Free Church Christians Seventh-day Adventist». The reason for this was the fact of giving ecclesiastical literature to the district administration employees — head of the administration, his deputy, lawyer and accountant. Distribution of the literature was considered as missionary activity in a not designated place and an attempt to involve employees in the religious organization.

August 31, 2016 a district court in Mari El Republic of Russia sentenced pastor of the Church of Evangelical Christians Alexander Yakimov to a fine of 5 thousand Rubles for «illegal missionary activity» conducted in one village. The court ruled that on July 30, 2016 during a holiday in the village the pastor violated the law by pronouncing sermons, quoting the Bible and blessing of the holiday participants.

September 5, 2016 it was announced that a district court of St. Petersburg found Sergei Zhuravlev guilty and sentenced him to a fine of 5 thousand rubles for «illegal missionary activity». He is representative of the Reformed Orthodox Church at the name of Christ the Savior (Ukrainian Orthodox Reformed Church). Zhuravlev was arrested on August 27, 2016 in the premises of the organization «New Hope» based on a denounced to the police where was stated that the man «tried to persuade the Jewish community to convert to Orthodoxy.» The convict pleaded not guilty and told the court that held a seminar for drug addicts and alcoholics, telling them about the history of Christianity, and the relationship of Christianity and Judaism.

 

RESUME

 

No doubts, the bill was lobbied by the Russian Orthodox Church with involvement of anti-cultist Alexander Dvorkin. The main purpose of the adopted bill is to fight religious communities uncontrolled by the ROC.

Per opinion expressed by different experts, the Russian Orthodox Church inclines to totalitarian ideology more and more. In June 2013 using Pussy Riot case the ROC lobbied amendments to the Criminal Code of Russia introducing liability for «public actions on expressing clear disrespect for society and committed in order to insult the religious feelings of believers». Now this article is used by police and FSB against those insulting the religious feelings of the ROC followers mostly.

Every month media reports about cases when so-called «sects» and Orthodox organizations split from the ROC have serious troubles with authorities. On 24 August 2016 The Russian True Orthodox Church was raided by FSB in Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church raided by FSB in Suzdal city on 6 September 2016.

The Russian Orthodox Church, acting in tight connection with the government agencies, gets rid off all undesirable religious organizations.

Even so-called traditional religions of Russia (Islam, Buddhism, Judaism) have difficult time — it was kind of shock when Dvorkin held his first lecture against Muslims in 2013. But things changed unfortunately and the traditional religions begun to suffer no less than the minor onces.

September 13, 2016

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