Anti-evangelism law still in effect--against Pentecostals


by D. Voronov, E. Shestakov

SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 17 April 2017


We are publishing an article by attorneys Dmitry Voronov and Evgeny Shestakov about another case of the application of the anti-evangelism amendments of Yarovaya-Oserov. This time a Pentecostal was convicted in Abinsk.


We continue to collect cases of the illegal application of the Ozerov-Yarovaya Law with respect to religious associations and believing citizens. The next case occurred in the city of Abinsk of Krasnodar territory.


Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) in contemporary Russia may be members of various associations and unions. The best known of them is the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (ROSKhVE), which is headed by S.V. Riakhovsky. But besides that, there also operate at least three large associations: the Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith, led by E.A. Grabovenko, the Associated Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith, represented by the Russian Association of Missions of Christians of Evangelical Faith. Despite that they have similar names and similar doctrine, their juridical formation differs.  In the area of religion this is not such a rare phenomenon. For example, in the Russian federation there operate about ten different Orthodox associations, and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow patriarchate is one of them, albeit the largest. Unfortunately, secular lawyers as well as law enforcement agencies often do not understand such nuances.


On the basis of ignorance of the nuances the district prosecutor's office of Abinsk also built an accusation against a clergyman, Vladimir Mikhailovich Klimenko. He is entrusted with conducting worship services in the city of Abinsk of Kransodar territory in the name of the "Evangelist" Christian Missionary Society of Christians of Evangelical Faith of the city of Krasnodar. Services are conducted in premises provided on the basis of a contract and in accordance with point 2 of article 16 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations." Although the religious organization (being registered by the Russian Ministry of Justice and having official status) acts in accordance with legislation (a contract was concluded), the prosecutor's office accused them of existing as a religious group (this is another status according to federal law) and not informing the office of the Ministry of Justice about their activity. Then the accusation was reformulated with respect to V.M. Klimenko, who, in the opinion of the prosecutor's office, engaged in illegal evangelism. And therefore the material about an administrative violation of law was sent to the court.


How did the prosecution argue for the indictment of engaging in missionary activity? The main argument was the so-called fact of "distribution of information" about itself and its doctrine in the Internet on the website "Abinsk—eternal values," where actually information is presented about all religious associations of the Abinsk district. On this website the section about the Christians of Evangelical Faith has a link for some reason only to the website of the Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith. But neither with this association nor with any one of the websites mentioned does the accused himself, nor the organization he represents, have anything to do. Detailed explanation about this was given to law enforcement agencies and subsequently to the magistrate's court with attached appropriate documents about the status of the organization, about the bases for use of premises, etc.


To build an accusation of missionary activity on known incorrect information is, at least, improper. However the magistrate judge drew the conclusion that "information about the doctrine of the religious organization was displayed, that is, missionary activity was conducted with the help of Internet means," and it is V.M. Klimenko who is incriminated of conducting missionary activity with the help of the means of the Internet.


According to the order of the magistrate judge of judicial section No. 113 of Abinsk district on case No. 5-85/2017 of 14 March 2017, Vladimir Klimenko was found guilty on the basis of part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law and he was afforded an administrative penalty in the form of a fine of 5,000 rubles. Not agreeing with this order of the magistrate judge, Vladimir Klimenko filed an appeal, which was supposed to be sent for consideration in the Abinsk district court of Krasnodar territory. According to available information, at the present time the appeal still has not been reviewed.


It is noteworthy that on the website of the Krasnodar territorial prosecutor's office there was no delay in the appearance of information "about the termination in the city of Abinsk of illegal missionary activity of a religious group," which for some reason was called Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Although all the information provided pertains to the situation described above. What kind of goal there is for the publication posted before the order of the municipal judge takes effect, which was also appealed, remains only to be guessed at.


We will follow the development of events. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 April 2017)
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