Flimsy grounds for banning Jehovah's Witnesses


jw-ru.blogspot, 20 September 2016


The Federal List of Extremist Organizations on the official website of the Ministry of Justice has been up-dated. Two religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses were added to the list: No. 50, Local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses of the city of Stary Oskol; No. 51, Local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses of the city of Belgorod.


Unfortunately the judicial bodies were unable to investigate impartially the baselessness of the accusations against the Jehovah's Witnesses. This casts doubt on the grounds on which the religious organizations were found to be extremist.


For example, the Supreme Court of the Russian federation liquidated the religious society of Jehovah's Witnesses in Stary Oskol, upholding the decision of the Belgorod court regarding termination of the activity of the religious organization for distribution of the Bible. Amazingly, judicial instances found extremist a Bible in which there was printed an address of the official website of Jehovah's Witnesses. At the time when the Bible with this address was printed, the website of the Jehovah's Witnesses had not yet been included in the list of extremist materials. However later the website was banned without comparing the date of the publication of the Bible with the address to the date of the ban of the Jehovah's Witnesses' website. And without then simply recommending the removal of this address from the Bible. The judicial instances found the whole Bible as extremist and the organization using this Bible also as extremist.


On one hand, the logic is very simple: if such an organization gives a reference to a forbidden source, this organization should be ruled extremist. But then another question arises. What about such large organizations as Yandex, Google, Rambler, and that also give links to a so-called forbidden website?  As an illustrative example, let's type into Yandex, for comparison, "Official site of Jehovah's Witnesses." One does not have to wait long and one million hits were found.


That raises the next question. If the Jehovah's Witnesses are found to have in the Bible only one reference to a forbidden website and on this basis the organization in Stary Oskol was found to be extremist, then will the organization under the name of Yandex, which gives a million such links to its users, be found to be extremist?


The other religious organization, located in the city of Belgorod, was liquidated for distribution of a forbidden brochure. But it is paradoxical that this brochure was distributed not by a Jehovah's Witness but by a man unknown to them. The Jehovah's Witnesses tried to explain this in court, but the court of the first instance made a decision that was not in the Jehovah's Witnesses' favor. Then the believers tried to protest the original decision in higher instances, but without results.


One observer of what happened commented on this. He gave an illustrative example with tableware that is used by many people throughout the world. Such items as a fork or table knife are not only useful implements but sometimes are simply necessary for getting food. But let's imagine that some man, as the result of improper use of tableware, causes harm to somebody or further may even kill someone with the table knife or fork. Who should bear the punishment for such a situation? The one who used tableware improperly or the one who made it? Common sense dictates that the one who used the tableware improperly bears the responsibility.


The situation with the Jehovah's Witnesses in Belgorod looks like this. Unknown persons, possibly ill-wishers, distributed a forbidden publication. But it is strange that the punishment for this was borne not by the person committing the violation of law but by the religious organization that is not guilty of anything. The Jehovah's Witnesses hope that at some time justice will prevail. History has shown more than once that Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted similarly without basis both in fascist Germany and in the Soviet Union.


Although the prohibition of several religious organizations in Russia has in itself created some difficulties for believers, the Jehovah's Witnesses are pleased that the Russian constitution protects the rights of all believers, granting to them full right to share their convictions as Article 28 proclaims:  "Each person is guaranteed freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession, including the right to profess individually or jointly with others any religion or not to profess any, and to freely choose, hold, and disseminate religious and other convictions and to act in accordance with them." (tr. by PDS, posted 20 September 2016)

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