NEW AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW “ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS”

  • Russia
  • 13.Aug ‘20
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On July 21, the Government of the Russian Federation initiated the adoption of new anti-extremist amendments to the Federal Law “On freedom of conscience and religious associations”. The principles of Yarovaya law is alive and well. The amendments relate to the following:

1. Priests who have received religious education abroad will not be able to start religious or teaching activities in Russia without undergoing retraining or certification at Russian universities.

Sergey Gavrilov, the head of the State Duma’s profile committee, explained: “This is done in order to avoid aggressive missionary work, especially from radical extremist movements. Very often young people are still studying in foreign centers. And it is difficult to assess whether they were trained as agitators, propagandists, extremists or preachers.

Question: it is clear that this amendment is against Islamist radicals, but will it not touch, for example, Russian Protestants? As we wrote, in March the Moscow Theological Seminary of Evangelical Christians-Baptists was revoked. For many students, the only way out is to get an education abroad. I wonder where and according to what criteria they will have to undergo certification and / or retraining in Russia? Or will it be selective application of legislation?

2. A ban on the leadership or participation in a religious group of persons whose stay in Russia is recognized as undesirable, as well as persons included in the register of extremists and terrorists of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service.

It is important to note here that we are not talking about religious organizations (that is, officially registered legal entities), but about religious groups, that is, simply associations of people professing one religion (in accordance with the definition of the Federal Law itself: “An association of co-religionists, which does not state registration is required“).

Question: How does this provision of the Federal Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations” agree with Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which guarantees “freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, including the right to profess, individually or jointly with others, any religion or not to profess any“? The constitution guarantees the right to practice religion to everyone, including criminals; while the new amendments to the Federal Law clearly limit this right.

3. Religious groups must notify the Ministry of Justice about the continuation of their activities annually (and not once every three years, as it is prescribed in the current version of the law).

The question is: how was this measure generally observed in the past and how will it be observed in the future? After all, a “religious group” is the most diffuse association. Here you either need to rely on law-abidingness and sincere love for the bureaucracy on the part of all believers, or introduce a total surveillance system: who, where, how, when and with whom “profess any religion together.”

4. Centralized religious organizations will have the right to impose a ban on the withdrawal or exclusion of territorial organizations from their membership.

We will not even comment here, read our texts and understand for yourself who is lobbying for such an amendment.

5. Legal entities will be prohibited from using an indication of a specific religion in their names if these legal entities are not themselves religious organizations.

The question is what to do with hundreds (if not thousands) of autonomous non-profit organizations created under religious organizations and having an indication of this affiliation in their names? For example, such NGOs as the “General Educational Orthodox School of Arts”, “Orthodoxy and World”, “Islamic Scientific Research Center”, “Islamic Cultural Center “SODRUGESTVO” (Community).

In general, the proposed amendments leave more questions than answers. We hope that in the course of the discussion of the draft law, clarifying wording will be proposed, excluding incorrect interpretation of the law.

Nevertheless, the fact remains: Russian legislation in the field of religion is being changed to suit the Chinese model. This is done in a very systematic manner, as we wrote about earlier.

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