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Russia Religion News Current News Items

Jewish mystics eyed as extremists

NeSekretno, 9 April 2013

The Center for Combating Extremism of the Chief Directorate of Russian MVD for Perm territory began an investigation into the spread in Perm territory of the Jewish teachings of Kabbalah.

Employees of the "E" Center had already taken a statement from the chief Perm teacher of Kabbalah, the leader of the Chabad Lubavitch community, Zalman Daich. Methodological literature used in Perm Kabbalah courses was seized for study.

Classes of Kabbalists are conducted in one of the halls of the Ural hotel. It should be noted that organizers do not come into contact with reporters and curious folks, and they do not allow outsiders into their classes. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 April 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Flawed bill considered by parliament

BBC, 9 April 2013

The Russian State Duma intends to consider on first reading Tuesday the draft of the law protecting believers' feelings that was introduced after the trial of "Pussy Riot" and which rights advocates consider judicially illiterate and completely unacceptable.

The decision to include the bill in the agenda of the session of the lower chamber of parliament on 9 April was made yesterday by the council of the State Duma. The chairman of the chamber, Sergei Naryshkin, announced this to reporters.

The draft of amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Violations of Laws, that dramatically stiffens the penalties for offending religious convictions and feelings of citizens, was introduced for consideration in September soon after a court of the first instance issued the sentence of three members of the "Pussy Riot" group. The draft was signed by deputies of all four fractions of the State Duma; this, according to the nearly unanimous conviction of Russian commentators, points to the fact that the draft was submitted by the presidential administration.

At the same time, the government of Russia, the Supreme Court, the Legal Board of the State Duma itself, the Public Chamber, and the presidential Council on Human Rights subjected the draft to harsh criticism. While all criticized it for the very same flaws, the authorities only recommended that the draft be improved whereas the Public Chamber and rights advocates are convinced that it should be sent to the trash.

The draft proposes to add to the Criminal Code an article providing for punishment in the form of incarceration for a term up to three years, a fine of up to 300 thousand rubles (9600 dollars), or compulsory labor for "offending the religious convictions and feelings of citizens [. . .] and public desecration and insult to worship services and other religious rituals." At the same the actors propose punishing offense only to religions that constitute an inseparable part of the historic heritage of the peoples of Russia.

For desecration or damage to objects and items of religious veneration the deputies propose punishment of incarceration for a term of up to five years, a fine of up to a half million rubles, or compulsory labor.

The amendments to the administrative code introduce, specifically, a fine of up to 50 thousand rubles for public desecration of religious literature and signs and/or emblems of worldview symbolism.

All official reviews say that believers' feelings are already protected by articles of the Criminal Code pertaining to the violation of constitutional rights and human freedom, that the concepts "worship service," "insult to worship services," "item of religious veneration, "religious feelings," and "religions constituting an integral part of the historic heritage of the peoples of Russia" are not in Russian legislation and that it is possible to offend and insult a person, but not a ritual. Rights advocates are sure that this legal distinction of some religions from others will inevitably lead to arbitrary application of the law.

"If the law is adopted, it will affect the feelings of both believers and nonbelievers. The law will result in the division of the country into people of the first class, namely those who believe correctly, and those who believe incorrectly or simply do not believe," Nikolai Svanidze, a member of the Public Chamber, told the Russian Service of BBC, explaining the negative response of the Public Chamber to the bill.

Rights advocates emphasize that the phrasing of the bill is too vague and laconic, and there may be many things that offend the feelings of some believers—teaching the theories of Darwin and the Big Bang, for example, as well as preaching a different religion, even one constituting an integral part of the heritage of the peoples of Russia.

Deputies promise to improve the bill, but just how is still unknown. According to procedure, amendments to the bill should be introduced after the first reading and adopted in the second reading.

"The imprecision of the phrasing is the question of improving the bill for second reading. Of course, all suggestions that are submitted will be studied.  In order to avoid broad interpretation, phrasings will be clarified," Sergei Zhelezniak, one of the nominal sponsors of the bill and vice-chairman of the State Duma from United Russia, told the Russian Service of BBC earlier. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 April 2013)

Russian original posted on site of Slavic Legal Center, 9 April 2013


"Stiffening responsibility for hurting believers' feelings is world practice." This statement was made by Mikhail Markelov, the first deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organizations, on 9 April, the day when the Russian State Duma begins consideration of the controversial draft law on criminal liability for offending feelings, the website of the United Russia party reports.

"Today in the State Duma the draft law will be considered that is directed to the protection of the religious feelings of citizens. It proposes changes in individual articles of the Criminal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Code of Administrative Violations of Law," the parliamentarians were reminded.

"Unfortunately, we have recently observed a definite trend of perpetrators of attacks on representatives of various—I stress, various—confessions. People who profess traditional forms of religious are constantly faced with threats of a different sort," Markelov noted.  (tr. by PDS, posted 9 April 2013)

SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, 9 April 2013

On 9 April 2013 the Russian State Duma adopted on first reading the bill "On introducing changes into the Criminal Code of the Russian federation and individual legislative acts of the Russian federation in order to combat offending religious convictions and feelings of citizens and desecration of objects and items of religious veneration (pilgrimage) and places of Religious rituals and ceremonies." Four hundred thirty-seven deputies voted in favor.

As had been suggested earlier, the draft law, which attracted numerous negative reviews, including a negative conclusion of the government and critical reaction from President Putin, was adopted in the same form as had been introduced to the duma, that is, adding an article 243.1 to the Criminal Code (offending religious convictions and feelings of citizens and/or desecrating objects and items of religious veneration (pilgrimage) and places intended for conducting religious rituals and ceremonies). It is planned to introduce fundamental corrections and changes for the second reading. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 April 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Federal prosecutor's office brings extremism case against Jehovah's Witnesses


A document presenting the result of an investigation and containing charges about sixteen Jehovah's Witnesses who call themselves adherents of the Christian religion, numbering 7.7 million active adherents, was posted on 8 April on the official website of the Prosecutor General of Russia.

Residents of Taganrog have been wrongfully charged "with founding and participating in the activity of an extremist organization" because they have not renounced their religion after the dissolution of the local Jehovah's Witnesses organization in 2009, which now is awaiting consideration in the European Court for Human Rights.

After the believers receive in their hands the indictment, the press service of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses of Russia reports, the case will be referred to the Taganrog city court. All sixteen Jehovah's Witnesses are convinced of their complete innocence and will  pursue an acquittal. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 April 2013)

Related articles:  

"Russian court declares congregation extremist ,"    September 14, 2009

"Expert criticizes court ban of Jehovah's Witnesses ,"   September 15, 2009

"Expert analysis favors Jehovah's Witnesses ,"  September 16, 2009

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Violence marks controversy over building 200 churches in Moscow

Interfax-Religiia, 8 April 2013

OMON troops dispersed believers who had assembled on Saturday for a prayer service for the construction of a church on Molodezh Street in the Gagarin district of Moscow. "Many believers were injured as a result of the actions of police who were dispersing a prayer vigil," Interfax-Religiia was told Monday at the office of the public association "We will protect Program 200."

According to the news agency's source, cossacks and Orthodox athletes, who had come to the place of the events especially for ensuring the safety of the worshipers, were injured. As police officials stated, the reason for the dispersal was violation of legislation regarding mass events.

"Police tried to arrest priest Dimitry Nenarokov, but believers formed a living ring around him and were able to push him to a vehicle and speed away," the association reported.

In addition, believers were attacked by an organized group of unidentified persons. They shouted threats and insults, but none of them was arrested by police.

A previous prayer service on Molodezh Street on 30 March ended with mass arrests by police of believers led by a priest. At the time of the prayer service, believers were subjected to attack by an unidentified group that threw pieces of ice at them and incited dogs against them. Earlier one of the women activists was beaten by an unidentified man during the prayer service. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 April 2013)

Interfax-Religiia, 8 April 2013

Priest Dimitry Nenarokov, the head of a parish on Molodezh Street in the Gagarin district of Moscow that is seeking the construction of a church there, declared that deputies are leading the group that is unhappy about this initiative. "Elena Rusakova, a deputy of the municipal assembly of Gagarin district from the Yabloko party, is the inspiration of this whole campaign, and her ideological inspiration is one of the deputies of the Moscow City Duma from 'United Russia,'" Father Dimitry told an Interfax-Religiia correspondent on Monday.

As has been reported, believers regularly conduct prayer services on Molodezh Street for the construction of a church there, which are usually accompanied by skirmishes. According to Orthodox believers, they are provoked by a group of unidentified persons whose side the police take. Last Saturday, OMON troops dispersed the prayer service's members.

The priest reported that the other day he was summoned to the Directorate of Internal Affairs for southwest Moscow to the office of an investigator "whose surname was not later found in the lists of investigators of the district." He was supposedly summoned to a conversation, "but in reality this was a police interrogation which lasted six hours, accompanied by violation of procedural rules."

"During the interrogation they asked me which forces were financing me and whose business interests I am representing. That was the leitmotif.  And here it is important to emphasize that all of my actions are free of charge; I do not receive a kopeck from the parish; this is my sacred duty. At the same time I am a deputy hetman of the Moscow city cossack community for educational work. So naturally all my work is public and free of charge, but the investigators did not believe me," the agency's source said.

He reported that during the time of holding prayer services, a bus arrives with a "group of tourists—local residents are a minority among them—who shout insults against the church and patriarch, throw stones at believers, and hound them with dogs." At the same time, opponents of local believers each time "engineer a brawl." Cossacks ensure the safety of the worshipers. Notification about the prayer services are submitted to the prefecture and the police in the prescribed manner.

Father Dimitry noted that believers have not received an allocation of land for a church in Gagarin district, although according to "Program 200" it is planned to be there. At the same time, no public hearings have been conducted and "in spite of the wishes of the people, deputies have decided to prevent churches in Gagarin district."

He said that "a genuine informational war" has been launched. A group of dissenters against construction of the church is conducting "through concierges" a collection of signatures against it, "saying that supposedly because of the church there will not be a playground or boulevard there and there will be coffins, funeral processions, and church bells ringing."  (tr. by PDS, posted 8 April 2013)

Interfax-Religiia, 8 April 2013

The foundation supporting the construction of 200 churches in Moscow sharply criticized the Orthodox activists who are pursuing the construction of a church on Molodezh Street in the Gagarin district of the capital.  "In the current difficult situation it is necessary to take a balanced approach to choosing the time and place for any kind of public actions and to coordinate them with the local administration in advance according to the prescribed procedure," the press service of the foundation says in a statement delivered to Interfax-Religiia. The foundation's work is supervised by the head of the Finance and Economics board of the Russian church, Bishop of Podolsk Tikhon, from the point of view of the church, and by State Duma deputy Vladimir Resin, from the point of view of the government.

As has been reported, believers regularly conduct prayer services for the construction of a church on Molodezh Street, which usually are accompanied by skirmishes. The Orthodox believers say that they are provoked by a group of unidentified persons, whose side the police take. Last Saturday, prayer service participants were dispersed by OMON special forces.

"Prayer services, wherever they may be performed, should be performed with the blessing of the hierarchy. Such blessing has not been given for Molodezh Street and the independent actions of activists has evoked strife and controversy, which are not fitting for the Christian way of life," the foundation stated.

The statement notes that priest Dimitry Nenarokov, who has performed the prayer services, did not have permission for this and is not a registered cleric of the southwestern vicariate.

The foundation made clear that a plot of land on Molodezh Street was proposed for initial consideration by the church, but because the prefecture began receiving numerous complaints from resident of neighboring buildings the authority concluded that construction of a church there is inappropriate.

"Because all further work on the plan of construction was halted, the prefecture was sent a request for gaining an alternative parcel. No priest was assigned responsibility for the construction, since the land has still not been included in the program because of the objections of residents," the press service stated.

The foundation noted that the group of activists has sent to the authorities a request to conduct public hearings, since it is not clear how many have objected to the construction and what their motives are. Public hearings will be scheduled in the near future.

In his turn, Bishop Tikhon, who is quoted in the statement, called for peace and harmony regarding "Program-200." "I have always appealed to everybody who wishes to express support for our work: do not seek enemies; seek friends. We should patiently walk the path of peace and harmony, without sowing hatred and division and without insisting on our own way at any price," he declared. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 April 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Extremism case against Jehovah's Witness botched

Court found that literature he distributed is not prohibited
by Alexander Ineshin
Komsomolskaia Pravda, 5 April 2013

The case of administrative violation of law by a native of Nizhny Novgorod who distributed religious books was considered in the Vyksa city court. A member of the Jehovah's Witnesses community was accused of widespread distribution of extremist materials that are contained in the published federal list of extremist materials. The man did not acknowledge that he was guilty of committing a violation of law.

"In the judicial session, written materials of the case and testimony of witnesses established that literature included in the federal list of extremist materials was not distributed during meetings of members of the Jehovah's Witnesses religious organization, and literature that was confiscated during searches of the place of production is not banned," the press service of the Nizhny Novgorod provincial court told Komsomolka. "The Vyksa district court put an end to the proceedings on the case of administrative violation of law for lack of evidence of a crime." (tr. by PDS, posted 8 April 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Religious extremism in social network

SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, 4 April 2013

On 4 April 2013 the Kurgan city court found video materials posted on the social network "VKontakte" to be extremist. Among them are the videos:

"How I went on Jihad and what I saw there;"

"Said Buriatskii, 'Answers to questions,' Spring 1430 (2009);"

"Kafirs [infidels] have no reasons;"

"Film from the 'Islam Umma' website;"

"Sheik Said Buriatskii, 'Ramadan and Jihad';"

"Sheik Said Buriatskii, 'Intention and Jihad'  Spring 1430 (2009)."

The prosecutor's office of the city acted as the initiator of the judicial investigation, filing a lawsuit in court. The psychological linguistic expert analysis that was conducted showed that "these video materials deliberately used methods of direct or indirect influence upon the individual psyche with a goal of creating the psychological readiness to commit violent acts or to display a hostile attitude toward representatives of a specific social group, and their distribution in the network on the Internet raises tension within society, provoking corresponding conflicts."

The court confirmed that these materials "are aimed at the creation of hostility and aggression towards persons of a different nationality or faith and the creation of conditions for illegal actions of an extremist nature" and it granted the petition of the prosecution. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 April 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

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