JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES TURNED INTO DEFENDANTS
The Supreme Court prohibited their activity in Russia, but Jehovists intend to challenge this decision
Parlamentskaia Gazeta, 21 April 2017
The verdict of the Supreme Court that was announced on 20 April was not unexpected. At the end of March of this year the Ministry of Justice pronounced to be extremist almost 100 items of the Jehovah's Witnesses and suspended the activity of the organization in Russia. The Jehovists themselves state that they will challenge the immediate cessation of the activity of all 395 of their divisions and the verdict of the Supreme Court for converting the organization's property into government income.
One of the first prominent incidents after which there began in the country talk about a possible ban on the activity of the Jehovists was the death in 2011 of a five-year-old child of the resident Natalia Podlozhevich Kogalyma. She prevented blood transfusion for her son, guided by the principles of her sect. The actual choice for the child was made by persons unrelated to him, who controlled his life, which led to a horrible result. And such a tragedy, as became clear, was not unique.
The Witnesses forbid their devotees to vote and be elected, to serve in the army, to celebrate any holidays, to sing the national anthem, and to raise the flag of their country. More than once there have been incidents where they went about apartments and urged people not to vote.
"It turns out that they do not recognize the constitutional structure of the country," says the president of the Russian Association of Centers for the Study of Religions and Sects, Alexander Dvorkin. The expert thinks that such an organization should not receive tax-exempt status. And its very existence in a state whose constitutional principles it does not share is abnormal.
As the sect scholar Alexander Kolosov says, the literature of the Jehovah's Witnesses is able to change a person's consciousness against his will: "They adopted many of the products of fascist Germany where experiments were conducted on prisoners of various concentration camps."
Jehovists become hostages of their organization. If someone decides to leave, they must cut off contacts with even close relatives who remain with the Witnesses. One person who risked breaking with the Jehovah's Witnesses, a young man Nikita (the name is changed) described what happened in the Administrative Center of the organization in Solnechnoe, outside St. Petersburg, to which the authorities allocated 7 hectares in 1992. Approximately 300 volunteers live there. Many of them abandoned studies in universities and quit jobs. Every day they are "brain-washed," telling them how bad it is beyond the gates and how you should think. They live on kopeks while they work to exhaustion—as laundresses, cooks, in the garage. A large portion of the people are in deep depression. Nikita was a witness to the psychological disorder of several volunteers. In the literature that the Jehovah's Witnesses study, the meaning of the Bible is distorted, some of its excerpts are hushed up, and others are given a completely different meaning.
Among other things Jehovah's Witnesses relate very hostilely to representatives of other religions and consider their faith to be the only correct one. And religious superiority leads to inter-religious strife.
Of 395 divisions of Jehovah's Witnesses, liquidated in Russia along with the head organization, eight have already been held accountable for extremism.
Are Scientologists next?
In the opinion of the chairman of the State Duma's Committee on Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organizations, Sergei Gavrilov, "it is necessary to conduct extremely attentively monitoring of the activity of religious organizations that are financed and administered from abroad" (the Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters are in New York—ed. note). Sergei Gavrilov has in mind all organizations in which "are practiced psychotechniques and manipulation, which ignore state interests: serving in the army, medicine, taxes, patriotism, and respect for traditional Russian values." According to Gavrilov, the State Duma is studying details of the Supreme Court's decision in order to work out new laws for protecting the rights of believers.
If the decision of the court takes effect, Jehovah's Witnesses members may be held accountable for extremism on the basis of part 2 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the RF. They face incarceration for a term of from 2 to 6 years.
Jehovists themselves have already declared that they will appeal the ban of this activity in the appellate instance of the Supreme Court. And if it does not quash the decision, they want to go to the European Court for Human Rights.
They have succeeded in receiving support from the European Service of Foreign Policy, which declared that Jehovah's Witnesses should have the possibility of peacefully enjoying freedom of conscience in Russia. "The EU will continue to fight for freedom of religious confession as a right that any person may enjoy, wherever he may be, on the basis of principles of equality and nondiscrimination," the statement says.
There are other totalitarian sects active in Russia, which evokes concern. For example, Scientology. They manipulate people, applying techniques of neuro-linguistic programming and collecting maximum information about people who have fallen into their field of vision, in order to get compromising material and to use it in their interests.
"The sect uses data received for self-promotion and self-expansion. I wonder whether it has come to mind of any personnel of American special services that receiving such information from a sect and using it is profoundly immoral," religious studies scholar Alexander Dvorkin asks.
In Moscow and St. Petersburg, courts have deprived Scientologist churches of the status of a legal entity, but they continue to operation as public organizations, being an excellent cover for foreign intelligence. (tr. by PDS, posted 1 May 2017)
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