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Religion News Current News Items
President justifies crackdown on NGOs
50 NKOs DEMAND PRESIDENT PUBLISH INFORMATION HE MENTIONED IN RECENT
Nezavisimaia 12 April 2013
Fifty Russian non-commercial organizations have demanded that Vladimir
Putin publish data he mentioned in a recent interview.
The issue is about lists of rights advocacy organization that,
according to the president, have received almost a billion dollars from
abroad. In a recent interview with the German television company ARD,
Putin maintained that there are more than 650 non-commercial
organizations. . The president cited such a scope in order to justify
massive investigations. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 April 2013)
Related articles on crackdown:
“PUTIN AND HIS INNER CIRCLE HAVE BEEN SLOWLY IMPLEMENTING AN
of Modern Russia, 12 April 2013
OK: Why is this series of attacks on NGOs taking
LP: About a month and a half ago, Vladimir Putin
spoke at an FSB [Federal Security Service] panel. He said, as if
addressing no one in particular, that he couldn’t understand why the
law on “foreign agents” had been passed but was not being implemented.
And I guess, at this moment, Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika might have
thought that it was his moment of glory. Maybe he wanted to distinguish
himself, or maybe he was insecure in his office, but as a result we
have a horrible story: hundreds of NGOs were raided by prosecutors.
It’s an ongoing seizure and destruction of the third sector, with the
attack targeting not just NGOs, but even more so NGOs that deal with
human rights issues.
ON BAPTIST AND OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN MOSCOW
Russian Evangelical Alliance, 11 April 2013
Government inspection of non-governmental organisations
(NGO’s) has begun to encroach upon religious organisations.
Consequently, Anatoly Pchelintsev, the head of Moscow’s “Slavic Legal
Centre”, urged in Council sessions that congregations should study
legislation precisely and prepare themselves for unannounced
inspections. To this end, all relevant laws are to be posted on the
RUECB’s website. The barrister noted that no legal requirement exists
for congregations to pass on personal information regarding its members
to government circles.
Religion News Current News Items
Restraints on commercial activity of church
CHURCH CONCERNED ABOUT ACTIVITY OF "KUZYA GOD" SECT AT "ORTHODOX" TRADE
12 April 2013
The Department for Relations of Church and Society of the Moscow
patriarchate has sounded the alarm over the situation in the sphere of
"Orthodox" trade fairs, at some of which sectarians are operating and
selling low quality goods.
"His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill has received
collective and individual letters from citizens who are upset by the
situation surrounding Orthodox trade fairs which are held in various
regions of Russia. It is possible to consider with regret the fact that
several Orthodox trade fairs have stopped answering to their name," a
declaration from the synodal department, which was delivered of Friday
to Interfax-Religiia, says.
Such events are being organized by secular trading companies with which
the patriarchate has nothing to do. The number of vendors that
represent the church at these trade fairs "has been steadily declining
and constitutes, as a rule, no more than 30% of the total number of
participants, which however does not prevent the organizers from
calling the trade fairs 'Orthodox,'" the document explains.
"At such events, often consumer goods are sold that are of a rather low
quality. But much more disturbing is the fact that these trade fairs
have become the favorite place for the activity of para-Orthoodox
sects, and particularly of the so-called 'Kuzya God' sect," the
The founder of the sect is Andrei Popov, born in 1977. For a long time
he called himself "bishop of Rome," but after being caught in a lie he
proclaimed himself a "god," in order to maintain his authority among
"The 'Kuzya God' sect is of a clearly destructive nature, which is
confirmed by numerous testimonies of its former adepts. As in the
majority of totalitarian sects, it actively uses methods of physical
and psychological manipulation of the individual, going as far as
beatings," the church said.
The main income of the sect comes from its members' participation in
"Orthodox" trade fairs. Posing, as a rule, as representatives of a
little-known church or monastery, its adepts suggest that people order
all kinds of prayers services and rites. According to data of the
synodal department, at just one trade fair, from 30 to 40 stands may
belong to the sect, which brings it huge income.
"However, in reality nobody performs prayer services and rites, and
Popov takes all the money himself. Moreover, at such trade fairs people
are recruited into the sect under the guise of providing help to some
church," the statement says.
Its authors emphasize that the patriarchate is actively working to
correct the situation that has arisen. In particular, recently a
Commission on Coordination of Trade Activity of the Russian Church was
created, and the regulations for its commercial activity have been
developed, conditions have been established under which a commercial
event can be called Orthodox, and the requirements upon organizers and
participants in such events have been worked out.
In the future the church plans to continue cooperation on this matter
with representatives of government agencies and organizers of Orthodox
trade fairs. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 April 2013)
Religion News Current News Items
Orthodox nationalists confront Scientologists
DOCUMENT: "GOD'S WILL" GROUP FAMOUS FOR ITS STRANGE ACTIONS
Press Service of Scientology Church of Moscow, 11 April 2013
Apparently having gotten false information from antireligious
propaganda, which some news media are not averse to, several persons
from a certain group, "God's Will," on 8 April appeared outside the
building of the Scientology Church of Moscow. They called themselves
"Orthodox," and they began to conduct a "prayer service," while
disrupting order and quiet around the church building, applying
stickers on the building, and pestering passers-by.
The God's Will group is known for its strange actions: hooligan pranks
in a museum, prayer service against "Pussy Riot," vandalism in the
Yabloko Party office, and others, which you cannot call expressions of
love and tolerance. The language chosen by these people of intolerance
and hatred is not at all what contemporary Russian society needs. The
propaganda of hatred and strife does not comply with the requirements
of Russian law and it undermines the foundations of harmony among
Russians who are adherents of diverse religions.
We recall that the Scientology Church of Moscow has been providing aid
to the residents of Moscow for 19 years now and it has a large number
Russian Scientologists enlighten young people about the harm of drugs
and they participate in disaster relief (helping victims after the
flood in Krymsk, helping victims in the roof collapse of Basman market,
Today the Scientology Church of Moscow is open seven days a week from
10:00 in the morning to 10:00 in the evening, and every person who is
interested in or seeking spirituality may visit the church and
create his own opinion about it. In the church is a public information
center and on its stands one may find everything about the church and
its activity. The book exhibit on the first floor will possibly open
for you new knowledge about yourself and your surroundings. (tr.
by PDS, posted 11 April 2013)
Russian original posted on Portal-credo.ru,
11 April 2013
Religion News Current News Items
Defenders of believers' feelings law speak out
SHCHIPKOV: LAW PROTECTING BELIEVERS WILL HELP STOP ANTIRELIGIOUS "SNOW
11 April 2013
The law protecting believers' feelings, approved recently on first
reading, needs to be adopted as quickly as possible, thinks Alexander
Shchipkov, a member of the Council of Public Television of Russia and
Orthodox rights advocate and publicist. "The deputies made the decision
against a background of alarming incidents. These are both acts of
vandalism to objects of worship and the recent beating of the rector of
the church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the village of
Pervomaisk, as the result of which the 52-year-old received a serious
concussion," A. Shchipkov says in an article published on the
He recalled that recently the Russian Constitutional Court adopted a
decree which permits performing public worship services outside of
houses of worship. The right to free conduct of religious
services is recognized also in a whole series of articles of Russian
legislation. However, according to A. Shchipkov, "today nobody will
give a guarantee that your processions of the cross, prayer service, or
requiem will not be equated with street disorders by an arbitrary
decision of bureaucrats and stopped by the police."
"Neither believers nor local or federal authorities have an interest in
such excesses and tossing of the situation. The 'bolshevization' of
society can be prevented by only one means—legal and legislative. Only
thus is it possible to regulate relations between those who hold
diverse views and convictions," the article says.
Its author thinks that Russian society is under constant threat of the
transformation of ideological differences from civilized discussion to
political confrontation. "At the start we observed the 'innocent' but
very offensive jokes against Orthodox believers in popular TV programs
and then we read offensive poems of famous writers against the sash of
the Mother of God, and soon some people entered a church and blasphemed
Christ there, and it all culminated in chopping up icons and dousing
them in acid and sawing down veneration crosses," A. Shchipkov stated.
In his opinion, the snowball is picking up speed and growing in size
and "will continue to fly further; already priests are being beaten up,
already religious rituals are being likened to political actions."
A. Shchipkov thinks that the existence of a new law will be a natural
restraint for those who are inclined toward illegal actions, "and then
the intervention of police another time will likely not be needed."
"This is why a new federal law combating offense to religious
convictions and feelings of citizens is extremely necessary for us in
the very near future," he concluded. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 April 2013)
MEDVEDKO: LEGISLATIVE PROTECTION OF SACRED SYMBOLS NEEDED
11 April 2013
Sacred symbols, including religious ones, need protection on the part
of the law. This opinion was expressed by the vice-president of the
International Foundation of Slavic Literacy and Culture, the senior
adviser of the duma Committee on Affairs of Public Associations and
Religious Organizations, Stepan Medvedko.
In an interview, the host of the program "Time of confidence,"
broadcast on radio "Komsomolskaia Pravda," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin,
emphasized that symbols and values for which people are prepared to
give their lives include not only religious objects but also such
concepts as "the eternal flame, memory of the deceased, reputation,
honor, and holy war." Father Vsevolod also expressed concern that the
"concept of 'sacred' has gone out of our lives."
The guest on the program, S. Medvedko, stated that with the new draft
law "the government is giving a rather serious signal. In the
sphere of citizen-law relations and the sphere of relations of two
subjects it has taken the problem to a higher level—the protection by
the state of the interests of the individual and of the social group."
Both speakers agreed that the desecration of a religious object "is
incorrectly identified as hooliganism," since "hooliganism simply does
not cover the whole complexity of the situation that is connected with
the desecration of objects and symbols that are venerated by people.
The vice-president of the Foundation of Slavic Literacy and Culture
noted that "legislation in Germany and France provides substantial
prison terms for such actions, which are not viewed as administrative
violations of the law. For example, with regard to the FEMEN group, the
office of the prosecutor initiated a criminal case and in the near
future, possibly, there will be a trial for a protest in the Paris
cathedral of Notre Dame. "If these women are found guilty, they face a
very substantial term, up to eight years in prison," S. Medvedko said.
At the end of the interview he expressed confidence that in the
majority, society supports the legislative initiative, since "it
understands the necessity of preserving spiritual pillars and support
for traditional spiritual values and traditional religious
institutions. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 April 2013)
KREMLIN SUPPORTS LAW PROTECTING BELIEVERS' FEELINGS
11 April 2013
The Kremlin supports the idea of a law protecting believers' feelings.
It is absolutely necessary for Russia, but its implementation is
complicated, the press secretary of the president of the Russian
federation, Dmitry Peskov, thinks. "The Kremlin supports the idea of
the law. As regards the phrasing, everything is the work of lawyers,"
he said. Peskov noted that the traditional religions of Russia have
many of their own customs.
"This is a law that is very difficult to implement, but it is
absolutely necessary in our multinational, multi-confessional country,"
Reporters asked about what kind of punishment should follow for someone
who desecrated some holy place without knowing that it is sacred.
"I am not able to comment on details of the implementation of the law.
That is a question of judicial practice, how it will be implemented in
actuality," D. Peskov said. In his opinion, one should not stretch one
law too far, but should proceed from its goal. In this case the goal is
protecting believers' feelings. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 April 2013)
Religion News Current News Items
Initial adoption of believers' feelings bill
INTRODUCTION OF CRIMINAL LIABILITY FOR HURTING BELIEVERS' FEELINGS WILL
ENGENDER OUTBURST OF ATHEISM—COMMUNIST PARTY
10 April 2013
The draft law providing prison terms for hurting believers' feelings
and desecrating sacred things will lead to an outburst of militant
atheism, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation thinks. "The
introduction of such criminal liability will not add to the authority
of the church,. This law is against the church," a member of the CPRF
fraction, Yury Sinelshchikov, declared during discussion of the bill on
first reading. In his opinion, adoption of the law and the appearance
of criminal cases based on it "will lead to an outburst of militant
atheism, while in its most aggressive forms it will engender enmity
between believers and unbelievers and exacerbate inter-religious
strife," Yu. Sinelshchikov suggests.
He thinks that there are no reasons for the adoption of the law, and
the crimes to which it pertains are already punished by currently
existing legislation. In addition, he thinks many of the terms used in
the law do not have legal definition.
In the best case, it will lead to lengthy linguistic, theological,
historical, and other expert analyses and red tape during
investigation, while in the worst case it will trigger "various abuses
by officials in criminal justice, corrupt phenomena, and reprisals
against inconvenient persons," the member of the CPRF fraction noted.
In his turn, the deputy director of the "A Just Russia" fraction,
Mikhail Emelianov, noted that members of "A Just Russia" do not have a
united position regarding the bill and therefore these will vote in
accordance with their convictions, freely.
Representatives of "United Russia" supported the bill.
In his turn, one of the sponsors of the draft law, the head of the duma
Committee on Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organization,
Yaroslav Nilov (LDPR fraction), stated that the document will be
improved for second reading taking account of comments received. "I
would like to express the hope that everything will be fine for us.
This bill will work in the interests of our citizens. We will believe
and faith will save," Ya. Nilov noted. He also answered the question of
how this bill protects the feelings of atheists. According to Ya.
Nilov, this document protects, inter alia, worldview symbols which may
be honored by atheists. He also advised every atheist to see the film
"Life of Pi." "It's a very good film that shows how in inhumane
conditions only by faith can one save one's self and survive," he said.
Three hundred thirty deputies voted for the bill, seven opposed it, and
Meanwhile the Yabloko party expressed a protest against the adoption of
the bill on first reading. "These amendments grossly violate the
constitution of the Russian federation, article 28 of which guarantees
freedom of religious confession, including the right to profess
individually or jointly with others any religion or not to profess any
religion, as well as the right to disseminate religious or other
convictions and to act in accordance with them," the party's statement
says. In the opinion of the statement's authors, thereby "the rights of
persons not professing any religion are grossly infringed." The party
produced data from the Ministry of Justice according to which on 1
January 2012 more than 60 religious denominations representing
officially registered associations are operating in the country. Among
them are shamanism and pagan confessions "whose rituals in and of
themselves are offensive for Christians and Muslims." (tr. by PDS,
posted 10 April 2013)
LAW PROTECTING BELIEVERS' FEELINGS ENFLAMES DOMESTIC CONFLICT
Leader of "For human rights" movement, Lev Ponomarev, thinks this law
by Maksim Mitchenkov
Kommersant, 9 April 2013
The State Duma will consider the draft law on protection of believers'
feelings on first reading. The leader of the "For human rights"
movement, Lev Ponomarev, discussed the situation with announcer Maksim
The document introduces prison terms of up to five years and large
fines for offending religious feelings of citizens and desecration of
sacred things. In particular, for public desecration of religious
literature or worldview symbols, the offender will have to pay up to 50
thousand rubles. Members of all four parliamentary parties were
sponsors of this bill.
--If one considers this bill from the point of view of protection of
human rights, how does it fit into this framework?
--I believe that this law is superfluous. There already exist standards
which prohibit desecration of places of worship and that law has worked
in the past. But hurting believers' feelings—that is a very flexible,
very elastic thing and we have already seen how believers who do not
attend an exhibit have been offended. Simply after watching an exhibit
on the Internet in the Sakharov Center, believers' feelings were
offended, although it was not filmed in the exhibit. Those believers
who might be offended by these works of art were advised not to enter
the premises. So they viewed it on the Internet and were offended. So
now believers are in an aggressive phase and perhaps that is natural
after soviet times and all the rest. And if we face the fact that some
conflicts appear on the streets between believers and those who
supposedly are offending them, then it is the believers who display the
aggression. In any case, it is they who beat the others and not the
other way around. So here, most likely, it is necessary to adopt some
law for unbelievers so that believers would not offend them. Or at
least it is necessary to raise the question.
--How will this bill be interpreted nevertheless? "Desecration of
sacred thing" and "offending religious feelings" are still not judicial
concepts. How will I apply this law?
--Yes, completely correct. It will be a reign of taste, as it were. I
should say that the State Duma is not called "Printer" for nothing. I
will not say that that is my assessment: such a rabid printer that they
punch out one law after the other which violates human rights. In our
country there are unbelievers and there are secular people. And if a
secular person approaches a believer and says, "There is no god," and
he thinks that he has been offended? It cannot be ruled out that this
law will begin to apply even in the case when he says: "I was
offended; my feelings were hurt by this person who said that there is
no god." Or he writes on a t-shirt that there is no god. So this is a
very dangerous law. It enflames domestic conflict, civil confrontation
within society, and it is superfluous; I absolutely insist on it. (tr.
by PDS, posted 10 April 2013)
Russian original posted on Portal-credo.ru
site, 10 April 2013
STATE DUMA APPROVES PRISON TERMS FOR HURTING BELIEVERS' FEELINGS
by Alisa Shtykina
Pravo.ru, 10 April 2013
Three years of prison for public offense of religious feelings, five
years for desecration of objects of religious worship. The State Duma,
by overwhelming majority, approved on first reading a law protecting
believers' feelings. Only seven person voted "no," much fewer than the
number of deputies in the CPRF fraction who actively attacked this
draft law but did not vote against its adoption.
By 330 "yes" votes the State Duma adopted on first reading the bill
protecting believers' feelings. The draft, which appeared in September
2012, proposes establishing criminal liability for "public offense of
religious convictions and feelings of citizens, demeaning of worship
services and other religious rituals and ceremonies of religious
associations professing religions that constitute an integral part of
the historic heritage of the peoples of Russia." If the law takes
effect, such violations of the law will be punished by incarceration
for a term up to three years, compulsory labor (up to 200 hours) or a
fine up to 300,000 rubles. For desecration of objects and items of
religious veneration and places designated for performing worship
services and other religious rituals and ceremonies one may receive up
to five years incarceration, a fine of 100 to 500 thousand rubles, or
compulsory labor (up to 400 hours).
The bill was presented by one of its authors, the head of the duma
Committee on Affairs of Public Associations and Religious
Organizations, Yaroslav Nilov (LDPR). "Last year went into Russian and
world history as a year of overt antisocial, blasphemous challenges
against our society. If we do not provide a legislative instrument, so
that competent agencies will be able to respond in a timely fashion to
antisocial attacks, then the street will bring order. And this has
already begun," the deputy said in arguing for the need for adopting
Another speaker, the vice-chairman of the Committee on Civil, Criminal,
Arbitration, and Procedural Legislation, Alexander Remezkov (United
Russia), expressed doubt about "the rationality of establishing
criminal liability for offending religious feelings specifically in
article 25 of the Criminal Code, when there already are articles
directed to protecting freedom of conscience, art. 148 and 282. In the
event of its adoption, proposed article 243.1 will create a conflict
with these and other articles of the Criminal Code—167, 214, 243, and
244," he warned. In addition, the bill contains terms "that have no
legal confirmation" (worship service, religious associations
constituting an integral part of the historic heritage of the peoples
of Russia). "This can create legal ambiguity in matters of
qualification of crimes and permit broad interpretation," Remezkov
concluded, but on the whole he approved the bill.
Yesterday the State Duma struggled substantially with the regulation,
but even despite this there were many questions for speakers from
deputies. Primarily communists attacked Nilov, although among the
bill's sponsors there are two representatives of CPRF (Sergei Obukhov
and Sergei Gavrilov). Anatoly Lokot (CPRF) noted that in various
confessions, one and the same phenomenon can be interpreted as holy and
"Is there no danger that this bill will lead to conflicts of believers
of different confessions? Cannot there be another way that implements
secularity?" the communist asked.
"This will not lead to any divisions; the law will operate for all
believers in an identical degree, Remezkov disagreed. "And we have
courts that will consider all arguments."
Another representative of CPRF, Nikolai Riabov, declared that "it is
difficult to imagine a more flawed bill" and he suggested that Nilov
add to the law a rule about a ten-year prison term for atheism:
"I am an unbeliever and that probably offends believers' feelings. So
ten years, what do you think?" "Atheists are not a religious
organization and they have no understanding of a sacred concept like
God. With this law we even protect a worldview symbol honored by
atheists," Nilov retorted. Nikolai Kolomeitsev accused him generally of
blasphemy: "Without examination, you want to get into serious
questions, and I think that you are committing blasphemy in this
situation." And Yury Sinelshchikov, speaking for the CPRF fraction,
insisted that "there are not any grounds" for adopting this bill
because "in all cases guilty persons have been punished in accordance
with existing law." "Criminal law has become the chief regulator of
relationships in the country. This is typical for an unhealthy
society," he declared.
Although Nikolai Levichev is listed among the sponsors of the document
in question, the "A Just Russia" fraction was not able to determine its
own attitude on the law. "We declare a free vote," Mikhail Emelianov of
"A Just Russia" reported. And his colleague in the fraction, Anatoly
Greshnevikov, warmly supported the legislative initiative: "Absolutely
confused youth do not understand why one can treat authorities and
leaders of confessions however they wish, but it is forbidden to touch
Besides communists, the only one who doubted the propriety of the
proposed measures was Sergei Kuzin of United Russia. He doubted whether
it is possible "to punish people criminally," using such concepts as
feelings. "Is there anywhere in the legislation a comprehensive
definition of the concept of offending feelings?" the deputy asked.
Nilov referred him to article 5.26 of the Code of administrative
violations of law (violation of legislation on freedom of conscience,
freedom of religious confession, and religious associations)—"There is
there offense of religious feelings," and to the Criminal Code, for
explanation of the concept of "offending," after which he stated that
"feelings are certain emotional experiences, a certain human condition,
and if it is changed that is an offense."
Toward the end of the session yet another sponsor of the bill, Mikhail
Markelov (United Russia) began frightening the deputies with stories
from pre-Petrine Russia, where such crimes faced the death penalty. "In
Rus they used one of the most horrible of its forms—burning at the
stake. The Old Testament prescribed stoning for a blasphemer and
burning everything that he had. Such measures were maintained in Rus
and were even provided for in the law code of Alexis Mikhailovich of
1649," the deputy said. "Indeed, colleagues, we have a secular state,
but this whole informative historical retrospective is necessary for
understanding the scale of the problem in question."
Seven persons voted against this law, and one abstained; the bill
satisfied 330 deputies. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 April 2013)
ROMAN LUNKIN: LAW "PROTECTING BELIEVERS' FEELINGS" WILL CONTRADICT
CONSTITUTION AND LAW ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL
OBLIGATIONS OF RUSSIA
10 April 2013
The adoption of the law on offending believers' feelings in its present
form will have exceptionally negative consequences for Russia, the
director of the Institute of Religion and Law, Roman Lunkin, declared
on 10 April. "This law has a repressive character and in its conceptual
apparatus it does not fit well into our legal system," the expert noted
in an interview with RBK.
The director of the Institute of Religion and Law called attention to
the fact that the law loosely interprets the concept "offending
religious feelings": "How it will be applied none of the lawyers who
have read this draft, and are of sound mind and clear memory,
understands. There is a huge scope for voluntarism here; the law can be
applied however one wishes and against whomever one wishes."
The religion scholar noted that in its present version, the law
protects representatives of religions that constitute "an integral part
of the historic heritage of the peoples of Russia," although Russian
legislation does not contain a legal definition of "historic heritage,"
"peoples of Russia," and "integral part."
"Even if the draft law were to indicate that the convictions of
representatives of these and other religions are protected, all the
same, officials in the prosecutor's office and judges will understand
this as the necessity of protecting the feelings of the traditional
religions. And then the question arises: will not representatives of
other confessions that are in Russia suffer, along with atheists and
those people who criticize the Russian Orthodox Church, the religious
policy of the government, and Islam. They criticize, perhaps, not
from positions of outright atheism but rather from positions of a
secular state and defense of secularity and they demand financial
transparency—this also may be considered such an offense," Roman Lunkin
noted. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 April 2013)
Religion News Current News Items
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