FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE ON THE SCALES OF JUSTICE
by Attorney Galina A. Krylova
The law "On Freedom of Conscience," which recently was adopted in Russia and which openly violates human rights, has attracted worldwide attention and evoked negative reactions from Western countries. In Russia the voices of the few defenders of justice were totally lost in the orderly choir of authorities together with the Russian Orthodox Church speaking on behalf of "millions of Russian citizens." Being taught by the long Russian history of suffering and especially by long years of the Soviet regime, most people kept their silence.
This drastic change of legislative policy was no surprise. Moreover, parliamentarians were only legitimizing the actual situation in Russia, i.e., they merely adjusted the law to comply with the reality. This concept may seem rather vague, but there is no doubt to a lawyer concerned with freedom of conscience.
Beginning a Practice
Though appearing in a different light nowadays, accidental stratagems of fate led the author to take part in these most famous court proceedings. My practice began when democracy had only started to break through the tenets binding the society and therefore seemed especially promising.
For the author, whose law practice was to support the public prosecution in the most difficult cases in the office of the Moscow public prosecutor, the first case in connection with religion concerned a clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church. He had been accused of bribery and had been imprisoned for a year. There was ample evidence of his improper receipt of money; however, this clergyman was not a government official. Therefore, in accordance with the laws of that time, he could not be tried for bribery, because only government officials could be held guilty of accepting bribes. For this reason the public prosecutor demanded his acquittal and immediate release, and the court agreed with this position. Higher officials of the prosecutor's office contested this decision before the Supreme Court of Russia and then brought their charges before the Supreme Court of the then-existing USSR. This protest was signed by the prime deputy public prosecutor-general of the USSR; however, the decision was upheld.
In the present case, this author became personally acquainted with the authors of a law in modern democratic Russia, "Religious Freedom in the Russian Federation" (1990), which changed principally the fundamentals of government policy in the sphere of freedom of conscience. Now we can realize that this law was adopted at the height of the struggle between the Russian and Soviet parliaments. At that time the result of the struggle between Yeltsin and Gorbachev was not at all obvious. This is beyond the scope of this article; note only that this very situation enabled freedom of conscience even if only for a very brief moment.
All religious associations were recognized as equal before the law, and any of them could attain the status of a legal entity by registering their articles without prior permission. At that time many communities of various denominations were registered. Some had existed during the Soviet era but were suppressed and could not act legally; others appeared in the USSR after the Iron Curtain had fallen. The Russian Orthodox Church significantly expanded its social influence.
But very soon this liberty for all confessions became inconvenient for both the Russian Orthodox Church, which recognized Russia as its canonical territory, and for those politicians who supported traditional sovereignty. These politicians sharply protested the activities of foreign missionaries while not rejecting their charitable assistance. In autumn 1992 Patriarch Alexy II sent his secret letter to the Parliament requesting restrictions on the activities of heterodox confessions. In summer 1993 the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation (Parliament of Russia) prepared appropriate amendments. However, the struggle between Yeltsin and Parliament resulted in an armed conflict, and the overall democratic atmosphere prevented changes in the law: Yeltsin vetoed these amendments as contradicting the Constitution. The reaction of foreign governments was of significance, because these discriminatory amendments, which became publicly known, ignored the principles of international law.
The failure in the capital did not stop the supporters of restrictions on religions. An active legislative process started among the subjects of the Russian Federation. Newly adopted regional laws restricted the rights of missionaries and enabled local authorities to prevent legal actions by religious associations. Appeals of State Duma deputies to the Constitutional Court brought no results. On the basis of an irrelevant technicality, the Court refused to consider their appeal regarding non-compliance of the regional laws with the Constitution. Only in one region (Udmurt Republic) did the protesters manage to have this law recognized as invalid.
There were repeated attempts to make legislative restitution of property exclusively to the Moscow Patriarchate. Although it theoretically provides no favors nor privileges, in fact the legal assignment of buildings and constructions to religious associations underlined the preferential position of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose consent was necessary to assign buildings to different confessions. Thus, for this purpose, an official agreement was concluded between Patriarch Alexy II and Yuri M. Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow.
Encouraging anti-sectarian hysteria, the mass media consistently interpreted perfunctorily the problems of freedom of conscience associated with sensations and scandals. Publications and reports developed an unambiguously negative attitude to certain religious associations and freedom of conscience as such. Many preachers, who had come with a rather sincere evangelical mission, were portrayed as oriented toward quite different interests. But new religions were especially vulnerable to the press. Thrilling stories about the life of "sectarians" accused of many crimes actively formed public opinion. The problem of non-traditional religions was unreasonably dramatized and the number of their adherents was exaggerated. There were widespread rumors and unfounded accusations of "brainwashing" initiated by anti-religious circles. On the whole, the mass media were characterized by an insulting attitude to adherents of certain confessions and the actual refusal to seriously analyze these problems. The experience of Western anti-clericals and deprogrammers was actively propagated in the territory of Russia, while publications of opponents of new religious movements abroad became the basic source of information for governmental authorities as well as the press.
Inspired by mass media support, newly formed anti-religious committees started appealing to all governmental authorities (mayors' offices, public prosecutors' offices, and the militia) to prohibit the activities of certain religious organizations and to institute criminal proceedings against missionaries. In the absence of any actual basis for undertaking such measures, no reaction followed from the official structures. Then these committees attempted appealing to the court, but again they had no avenue by which to prosecute their lawsuits in order to liquidate religious organizations in connection with the "brainwashing" of their adult children. A new twist in the practice of the law was connected with the precedent-making decision in the case of AUM Shinrikyo, resulting in the most negative consequences for freedom of conscience, even while the previous democratic law "Religious Freedom in the Russian Federation" was still in force; this very trial formed the model which then was used in actions against other religions.
The Case of AUM Shinrikyo
In 1994, following complaints by anti-clericals, the Moscow public prosecutor's office investigated the activities of this organization in Russia but refused to initiate criminal proceedings in the absence of any crimes committed by AUM leaders. (In fact, the commercial activities in question were connected with the Russian-Japanese University, which was established with the assistance of Oleg Lobov, one of the most significant politicians at that time. This had not been an issue of religion.) Later that same year the Committee for the Salvation of Youth and the Committee for Salvation from Totalitarian Sects brought their action to the Ostankino Intermunicipal Court in order to liquidate AUM.
Since there were no lawyers practicing in this absolutely new sphere, on the recommendation of Professor Yuri A. Rosenbaum, an authoritative legal theorist, the author hereof, who became an attorney and had some experience in church-state relations, was asked to take part in this case. Having read the absurd claim of "psychoterrorist aggression by a pseudo-religious organization" by means of "total zombie-izing and encoding" the disordered minds of believers, and that 20 billion rubles was necessary to provide rehabilitation, the author agreed to represent AUM.
Initially this action seemed to have no chance of success, because the parents had failed to provide any evidence of illegal activities on the part of AUM, in particular, that the mental health of their adult children had been harmed or endangered. However, after the gas attack in the Tokyo Metro on March 20, 1995, the situation worsened, and the pressure of public opinion and certain political forces led the Ostankino Court within less than a month (on April 18, 1995) to decide to liquidate AUM.
The author deliberately avoids evaluating the doctrines and religious practices of any of these religious organizations, including AUM, but takes into consideration only the evidence represented in these cases. This is the position of a lawyer; other matters should be considered by competent religious scientists, sociologists, and other experts.
Therefore, the court returned an obviously illegal decision in the case of AUM. This case showed no evidence of any illegal activities on the part of AUM. Without any medical examinations, including forensic psychiatric expertise, the court concluded that the religious practice of AUM was harmful to the health of believers, whose number was estimated at 20 thousand. The court had an absolutely legal basis for liquidating AUM, since the case uncovered formal breaches in the registration of this religious association. However, at the peak of the scandal of AUM in Japan, the court came to a different decision, which set a precedent and inspired anti-religious committees to undertake new actions.
In fact, this case enabled anti-religious committees to bring actions for the liquidation of religious organizations. According to law, such committees may not act in the capacity of plaintiffs. The amount of 20 billion rubles was recovered in their favor, though the law prescribes the recovery of money in the name of the persons whose health is disordered. The court decision specified such terms as "zombie-izing," "encoding," etc. These conclusions were made in the absence of any scientific evidence of such phenomena and even despite evidence to the contrary. The case filed the scientific opinions of some research institutes that the religious practices of AUM produced no harmful effect on the mental and physical state of believers; however, the court totally ignored these opinions. Moreover, the court decision set a precedent, because the evidence of competent, adult AUM members, whose mental state was not disordered by their religious practice as certified by medical documents, was ignored, but the evidence of a few parents, who actively opposed the religious choice of their children, was used in the basic conclusion that the minds of believers are disordered. The court decision specified disorders of "genital function" and "psychological castration" as a result of believers' religious practice.
Thus the first case for the liquidation of a religious association accepted unfounded all the anti-religious rumors, on the one hand, and constructed a precedent for further cases, on the other hand.
Even the most stalwart defenders of freedom of conscience failed to act against this obviously illegal and unfounded decision of the court referring to the scandalous reputation of AUM. Most likely they did not realize that such a model for liquidating a questionable organization would in any event affect cases in the future. Everyone thought that more respectable confessions would be protected from judicial arbitrariness. However, a problem appeared in that this experience was adopted not only by anti-clericals but by all the opponents of religious plurality.
Justice also appeared in a difficult situation. Having approved the legality of the AUM decision at all levels of the judicial system (including the Supreme Court), demonstrating readiness to yield to public opinion and waiving legal guarantees for the sake of expediency, judges failed to be sufficiently courageous (and, probably, eager) to ignore this precedent in further cases. Nobody was interested that in the course of three years' investigation of this criminal case of AUM the office of the Public Prosecutor-General (together with Russian special services working in this case) failed to discover evidence of any illegal acts committed by the leaders of this religious organization in Russia. On the contrary, inspections by justice authorities confirmed that AUM planned or prepared no terrorist acts in Russia. In any event, we can make certain conclusions by analyzing the official accusation made by the office of public prosecution against Mr. Outi Toshiyasu, a citizen of Japan. He was accused of using certain procedures in the form of "influencing the subconscious activities of the brain of the beleivers" in order to "acheive limiting the psichological freedom of the subconscious brain activities - encoding". During the criminal investigation only three AUM believers were recognized as having mental disorders, though the decision in the civil case declared that AUM activities mentally affected about 20 thousand persons.
The failure of the brainwashing concept in Western countries and the fall of the anti-religious movement in the USA were absolutely ignored by the press and judicial system. On the contrary, this concept was introduced as being generally accepted in Western countries and as a completely proven reason to prohibit a series of non-traditional confessions, which included not only Scientology and Krishnaism but even some Protestant denominations. Now intolerance of new religious movements is sanctioned also by the court decision.
Using the AUM scenario, anti-religious committees in St. Petersburg made similar actions to liquidate the Collegiate Association for Research of the Principle (a public organization supporting the doctrine of the Unification Church) and the Jehovah's Witnesses Administrative Center. The basic reason in both actions was the harmful effect on the mental state of believers; compensation in the amount of 80 billion rubles and 100 billion rubles was claimed from these religious organizations, respectively, in favor of the plaintiffs (i.e., committees rather than believers as if victims). The author hereof represents the interests of these organizations in legal proceedings.
The Case of the Unification Church
The trial to liquidate the Collegiate Association for Research of the Principle (CARP) immediately followed the application of some members of this association for registration of a Unification Church division in St. Petersburg. Nine days after the adoption of the articles of the St. Petersburg division of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity -- Unification Church, the Justice Department of St. Petersburg sent a notice to CARP that its activities were considered as involving individuals in religion and propagandizing its religious beliefs by means of lectures, seminars, and missionaries. All these activities were recognized as being illegal.
The registration of the Unification Church division was rejected, and anti-clericals immediately appealed to the court with an action to liquidate CARP. This action stated that "manipulations with the conscience of sectarians destroy the psychological basis of personality and, therefore, family and social environment, strictly dictate a set of artificial ethical requirements which are foreign for specific native features of the Russian people, form and support the status of mental overstrain connected with propaganda of the inevitability of World War III and Doomsday that results in neurosis and mental failure and aggravates the demographic situation in the country and the genetic fund of the nation." The action also specified that CARP "prevents the Russian state from fulfillment of the basic constitutional duty" and, therefore, attempted to alter the fundamentals of the constitutional system, etc., etc. Certainly the plaintiffs do not explain how an organization of fewer than 100 persons could manage to aggravate the demographic situation in the country and the genetic fund of a nation exceeding 100 million people.
The anti-religious committees also failed to provide any medical evidence for the personalities of their adult children as supposed victims. There are no medical examinations of victims, certificates issued by medical institutions, opinions of medical commissions, forensic medical experts, etc.
In the course of this trial the plaintiff (Mrs. N.K. Russkikh, the chairperson of the Interregional Committee for Salvation from Totalitarian Sects) declared that the matter of the special social danger of the Unification Church and CARP as a part thereof had been repeatedly considered at the governmental level in some foreign countries and in the European Parliament, where the said organization had been recognized as a totalitarian sect or destructive religion practicing brainwashing. Using the tactics of narcotic administration, their influence results in the mental mutation of the personality. This organization controls the conscience of its members at the subcortical level and actually suppresses the functions of the left cerebral hemisphere, which is responsible for logic and rational thinking. Especially at fault are the leaders of this organization, who call on members to understand God through their heart, and the methods of their special influence include prayers and religious songs. As a positive example of "deprogramming," the said plaintiff described the activities of the Cult Awareness Network. The trials against active members of the Cult Awareness Network, including Ted Patrick, and the court solutions for the compensation of damage to the victims of deprogramming are simply a proof of the almightiness of sects and therefore should not be accepted by the Russian court.
In the conclusion of her declaration, Mrs. Russkikh said that all the members of CARP, including her daughter Eugenia, are victims of the said association and need forced psychiatric stationary treatment for 16 months.
She demanded that all the members of CARP be subjected to psychiatric stationary expertise and that the books published by the Unification Church be investigated. During the filing of the book of Reverend Sun Myung Moon in the case, the attitude of the court showed absolutely no formal objectivity. Taking the said book, one of the judges said aloud: "What's this? 'Mein Kampf'?"
In accordance with the law, this judge was immediately challenged, because his reply was interpreted as a circumstance which causes doubt as to his objectivity and impartiality. Apparently this judge was not aware of the works by the founder of the religion, the study of which makes the authorized objective of the accused organization, and this comparison with the well-known book by Adolf Hitler made evident his attitude to the case. However, this challenge was not satisfied.
The court decided to appoint medical and psychological expertise for the members in CARP (E.V. Russkikh, V.N. Babkin, and O.A. Stepanova) and appointed experts to investigate the literature published by the Unification Church and all the materials of the civil case.
In their opinion provided in summer 1997, the experts informed the court that in the course of their investigation of two volumes of the case and 67 pages of printed and handwritten materials (including a certificate issued by the Justice Department upon inspection of the activities of CARP, printed materials of CARP and the Unification Church, papers by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, appeals of the plaintiffs to various instances with description of their harm, books by opponents of "totalitarian sects," etc.), they failed to discover any negative effect of the activities of CARP. The plaintiffs provided before the experts no evidence of criminal or other illegal activities of CARP.
As to the psychological and psychiatric expertise of believers, such expertise has not been completed, and the proceedings are suspended.
The most curious fact in this trial is neither the poor legal culture of the committees, nor the governmental protectionism in the persons of judges, Justice Department, and public prosecutor, who sincerely believe that they are protecting good purposes, nor the attempts to use psychiatrists in order to remove religious rivals (the practice of struggle against dissidents is still very clear in the memory of Russia), nor the belief in the absolute right of parental committees, public prosecutor, Justice Department, and the court to interfere in the ideological and religious problems of adult and capable individuals (this is another recent reality of the Soviet regime). This fact is the attitude of all the participants in this trial, excluding the defendants, to such quasi-scientific concepts as "brainwashing" and "deprogramming" as absolute reality. All the attempts of the attorneys of CARP to provide the court with scientific literature giving objective estimation of the said concepts were immediately rejected by the court. A vicious circle closes: expertise is appointed not to discover any facts but to confirm formally the fact of the brainwashing of young people.
The Case of the Jehovah's Witnesses
Using their usual strategy, the Committee for the Protection of Family and Personality and the Committee for the Salvation of Youth appealed to the court with their action to liquidate the Russian Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses and to recover in their favour 100 billion rubles as if for compensation of damage to the mental and physical health of individuals. In addition to their standard set of accusations of mental alteration resulting from religious practice and irremediable health disorders, the plaintiffs managed to accuse Jehovah's Witnesses even of the choice of alternative army service and refusal to work in governmental and administrative institutions. Meanwhile, the right of alternative service is fixed in the Constitution of the Russian Federation. This far-fetched action against Jehovah's Witnesses includes accusations as to their non-observance of some religious and family holidays. Certainly the anti-clericals did not specify their opinion of the religion and family whose holidays should be observed by believers of Jehovah's Witnesses.
This absurd action was accepted by the court; however, the case is still suspended in the absence of evidence of such mythical harm, while the court is not deciding to recognize the absurd nature of the said claims made by the plaintiffs.
In this case, it is interesting that the anti-clericals have repeatedly appealed to the public prosecutor's office, the militia, and the tax authorities with their demands that the said religious organization be inspected and liquidated. In the opinion of the Regional Department of Home Affairs of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region (the supreme militia structure in this region), which inspected the collective appeal from members of the Russian Orthodox Church to restrict the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses in 1996, no breaches were discovered. In the opinion of the public prosecutor's office in St. Petersburg approved by the Public Prosecutor-General's Office of Russia, the initiation of a criminal case was rejected. In accordance with this document, "repeated inspections were carried out in 1995 for the appeals of the Committee for Protection of Family and Personality and the parents of some members, who declared that the said religious association violates the current laws, attempts on personality and rights of individuals and its activities harm the health of members. All the reasons of any harm done to the health of individuals by their membership in this religious association were not evidenced and were recognized as being based on rumours."
Thus, absolutely knowing that their declarations do not comply with reality, the anti-clericals are appealing to the court with their action, while the court has not decided to terminate this case, despite the materials provided by the militia and the public prosecutor's office.
This trial becomes more demonstrative because in the past Jehovah's Witnesses were prosecuted in the cruelest way. They were imprisoned and sent to penitentiaries and reformatories, where most of them died. Even in the time of Khrushchev's thaw, Jehovah's Witnesses were convicted as criminals and exiled to far regions of Russia. Thus, there are third-generation Jehovah's Witnesses born in the exile of their parents. In particular, Basil Kalin, the present coordinator of the Administrative Center, and his parents were prosecuted together with many other believers. During Gorbachev's reforms, all the Jehovah's Witnesses were rehabilitated as victims of repressions.
Nevertheless, another trial is being initiated today against Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Case of Dvorkin
Another suspended proceeding, of which the author hereof is taking part at the second stage for appeal against the court's first decision, is the case of A. Dvorkin, who actively participated in the struggle against "totalitarian sects." This case seemed to provide good publicity both for A. Dvorkin and his work, which is neither informative nor original.
Giving the general description of "totalitarian sects" or "destructive cults," including the Krishna Consciousness Society, the Church of Scientology, the Unification Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Mormons, he accused them of continuous violence against their members including assaults, battery and rape, deprivation of property, and readiness to physically remove disagreeable members. In conclusion, these organizations were referred to as deadly and essentially mafia structures.
In 1996 the Committee for Protection of Liberty of Conscience, led by Gleb Yakunin, made an action in the court. In their appeal to the court the plaintiffs intended, in accordance with the law, either to obtain evidence that the defendant's declaration is true or to have his information refuted. The necessity of this action was caused by the fact that the booklet published by Dvorkin was obviously oriented to arouse religious intolerance and hatred. Though the general situation in the country was not favourable to obtaining a court decision in favour of the defenders of justice, nevertheless, the law provided no other result for their action. In accordance with the provisions of material and proceeding laws, the plaintiffs had to give evidence only of the fact of distribution of information. This was not difficult, and the said booklet was filed in the action. Meanwhile, in accordance with the old rule that "the declarant proves," the defendant had to give evidence that his declarations comply with reality.
This trial, which was held in Moscow, attracted the attention of numerous observers, including those from foreign countries. It was attended by such famous scientists as Eileen Barker and James Richardson, who acted as witnesses in person, while Gordon Malton, Massimo Introvigni, and Brian Ronald Wilson submitted their certified affidavits. However, all of them were ignored by the court.
In this trial the pattern of the case of Aum Sinrike was repeated completely. Despite the absence of any evidence that they have mental disorders, the claims of believers were ignored by the court. The evidence of their parents, who objected against the religious choice of their children, was used as the basis of the court's decision without any criticism. No scientific information was taken into consideration. Primitive "opinions" of psychologists and psychiatrists who supported the concept of "brainwashing" were recognized as the highest truth. Having no actual information and infinitely repeating each other with little difference, any "analytical notes" of the anti-clericals were recognized as sufficient evidence of the harm made by religions to their members.
The proceeding left the sphere of law and turned into a public political discussion on the place of new religions in Russia. Meanwhile, we should note that the liberal law "Religious Liberty in the Russian Federation" (1990) was in force at the moment of the court's decision.
Having referred to the evidence of the anti-clericals, who gave no actual information, to the aforementioned trials in Russia, as well as to some court decisions passed abroad, primarily the well-known decisions in Milan and Lyons with respect to Scientologists (these decisions were then canceled and were not in legal force at the moment of passing the decision in Russia), the Russian court recognized Dvorkin's declarations as complying with reality. The court was not confused by the evidence provided by the plaintiffs that Dvorkin's information was inconsistent, and the court's decision itself repeated the conclusions of mental violence, etc. The absence of logic, the disordered mix of evidence and conclusions, and the aforementioned reiteration of facts turn the judicial document into a hardly readable medley. Even an inquisitive researcher would better estimate this document as absurd in total rather than give a comprehensive analysis thereof.
It seems quite obvious that the court hoped that none of Russian political figures would ever read this decision. Even if they did, nobody would be able to give a critical estimate without sufficient special information. However, the volume of this document, the charming references to the "advanced Western experience" and the seal of the court will enable this decision itself to be used prejudicially in order to confirm criminal confessions by the court.
We should note that this plan was quite successful. The motivated decision had not been prepared by the court when Andrew Loginov, manager of the Russian Federation Presidential Office for relations with political parties, public organizations, and factions within the State Duma, in an article published in the newspaper "Rossiiskie Vesti" (Russian News) on July 19, 1997 -- i. e., in the period of struggle over adopting the new law -- already noted: "Quite recently, in the course of a trial in the action of the Committee for Protection of Liberty of Conscience against Dvorkin, the author of a booklet describing totalitarian sects, the court received evidence of various forms of physical violence applied in the Virgin Center, Krishna Consciousness Society, Moon's Unification Church, Aum Sinrike, Jim Jones Public Temple, White Fraternity, David's Branch, Family Sect, Church of Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. There is evidence of facts of rape and outrage upon children. The court proceeding discovered that all the aforementioned sects confiscated material values from their members, and the benefit of sects was always above all." Then the court refered to the nesessaty to protect the Russian citezens from the spiritual aggression.
"Rossiiskie Vesti" is the official newspaper of the Presidential Administration. Thus, the mass media actively created the myth of criminal sects, which was then approved by the court and proven in accordance with the law and published by a high officer in the said official newspaper. The references to the court decision demonstrate that it will be actively used not only by anti-clericals but also by governmental authorities in order to restrict activities of religious organizations.
In addition to the said trials, which are the most significant, the author hereof actively participated in other cases in Russian regions. In the city of Oryol, for example, a public organization which supported the doctrine of the Unification Church was officially notified by the Justice Department of its illegal activities as if the lectures delivered in the meetings were "unscientific." In the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, without any reasons, on demand of the local hierarchic officer of the Russian Orthodox Church, with assistance of the council which included the vice governor, the director of the local office of the Federal Security Service, and the local public prosecutor, the registration of the local community of Jehovah's Witnesses was terminated. The temple was confiscated from a local Orthodox community which was not included in the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church, etc., etc. The cases in Oryol and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk were won by the plaintiffs. However, this single success should not make us too hopeful. The general tendency puts us on guard. Unlike the Western countries, where justice is actually independent, Russian courts follow the guidelines of the governmental policies, wchich discriminates religions.
The aforementioned trials formed the public opinion of many religions (not only of the participants in these trials) as criminal and threatening to the interests of the country and the personality of its citizens. It is not by chance that a well-organized vox populi in the period of adopting the new law demanded to strengthen control of sects and even to prohibit their activities. The struggle against numerous religions is being carried out from doctrinal positions. This struggle is actually reduced to their accusations of crimes and active governmental participation. The efforts of the organizers of this struggle apparently have been successful. Now the governmental structures, including armed ministries, are distributing among themselves information on the nature of sects as if criminal, their criminal activities, etc. Meanwhile, though the Criminal Code prescribes responsibility for the organization of associations (including religious ones) which attempt the violation of personality and the rights of individuals, real crimes cannot be discovered, despite all the attempts of authorities excited by anti-clericals. Nevertheless, virtually all the general materials (Certificate of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Health Ministry Reference materials, etc.) evaluated a number of denominations as criminal. The only fact of the existence of continuing criminal investigations or civil court cases was recognized as the reason for rejected registration and for other hindrances in their legal activities. The Federal Special Program for strengthening the struggle against criminality (1996-97) included an item of necessary generalization and investigation of any materials in connection with attempts on health, personality, and rights of individuals, thus arousing religious hatred and war on the activities of religious organizations. We need hardly note that this federal program also discovered no criminality.
Thus, in the opinion of a practicing lawyer, all the significant trials in Russia with respect to religious organizations demonstrated that justice takes stable anti-clerical positions, and that decisions against "sects" are not prevented by the absence of actual information of their criminal nature or by the necessity to violate the laws. That is why the author hereof considers that the adoption of the new law only secured the objectively formed Russian reality of religious discrimination and the violation of human rights in the sphere of liberty of conscience.
In the nearest future this religious discrimination could be legally substantiated at the federal level.