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As it bans Jehovah's Witnesses, Russia is the same old evil empire


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Ronald Reagan gave his 'evil empire' speech in 1983.

Thank you, Vladimir Putin, for reminding Americans who you really are.

            Thank you for demonstrating anew - in case there were any of us naive enough to believe that your country and our country are not so different - that, in fact, Russia and the United States are fundamentally different.

            And thank you for the fresh evidence that -- although some people foolishly underestimated him and others just as foolishly idolized him - the late President Ronald Reagan was onto something when he called your country "the evil empire."

            Because you are evil. Despite the come-apart of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and some early indications back then that Russians would embrace democratic principles, your country is still repressive and authoritarian. Like the USSR of days gone by, it brutally punishes people for expressing anti-government beliefs. (And, of course, we've noticed that from time to time, you yourself like to have troublesome dissidents murdered.)

            In the past year, we've seen your government meddle in other countries' elections and we've come to understand that "meddle" is a euphemism for your wicked intent to manipulate governments and populations worldwide.

            Now we're seeing religious persecution, Russian style, and it as ugly and evil as it ever was.

            As you know, in recent days your government has banned Jehovah's Witnesses and criminalized their worship practices. The government can now seize their buildings and assets. They are forbidden to hold services or conduct door-to-door evangelizing. Their literature is deemed "extremist."

 People who ignore this ban will face fines of several thousand dollars and up to 10 years in prison.

            In our country, Mr. Putin, freedom of religion is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. We cherish it, but we also take it for granted. Sometimes, when we're being intellectually lazy, we assume that it's a value shared worldwide.

The more you persecute people for their religious beliefs, the more determined they will become.
 

            Then the Russian government bans an entire religion, and we remember that it's not.

            I am not a Jehovah's Witness. I've never been to one of their services or done an extensive study of their beliefs. Like many American believers, I assume that I know more about other faiths than I actually do.

            But this I do know, sir, and you should know it as well: The more you persecute people for their religious beliefs -- the more you declare them seditionists and extremists and a threat to public order -- the more determined they will become. A certain number of them will be frightened and intimidated, but a core group will resist you every day, in every way they can, for as long as they draw breath.

            If you seize their buildings, then they will worship in one another's homes. If you ban their literature, then they will produce more, and if they can't produce more, then they'll share their beliefs verbally. If you say they cannot evangelize publicly, then they will evangelize privately, one-on-one, regardless of the risk of being outed.

            And the more you remind your countrymen that Jehovah's Witnesses' headquarters are in the United States, the more the Witnesses may remind you that the kingdom of the God they worship is not of this world.

            Truth is, Mr. Putin, the Russia of the 21st century is in many ways the Soviet Union of the 20th century. We need to have a politically useful and globally practical relationship with your country, but we don't need to forget that you are not us and we are not you.

            Remember the adage that says a leopard can't change its spots? Your country is that leopard, Mr. Putin, and you haven't changed a bit.

            By the way, if you're interested in reading that particular adage in full, you'll find it in the Old Testament, in the 13th chapter of the Book of Jeremiah.

            If you don't happen to have a Bible handy, ask a local Jehovah's Witness. I imagine he or she will be happy to share.

Frances ColemanBy Frances Coleman :):):) from Kurt :x

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