HRWF (01.09.2016) – The implementation of the revised legislation on the freedom to share one’s beliefs is gaining momentum in Russia. After a few failed attempts to criminalize the activities of evangelists of some minority religions, the number of cases is dramatically increasing.
- Protestant pastor charged for delivering books to government personnel
- African expat nabbed by new anti-evangelism law: Pentecostal from Ghana fined for illegal evangelism in Tver
- Anti-evangelism law used against traditional Russian church: Baptist fined for evangelism in house of worship in Noyabrsk (By Roman Lunkin)
Protestant pastor charged for delivering books to government personnel
SOVA Center (30.08.2016) – http://bit.ly/2c71B3J – In Biisk (Altai republic) the director of an Adventist church who delivered Christian literature to the leadership of the district administration is accused of illegal evangelism.
On 22 August 2016 in Biisk, a case was initiated on the basis of part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF (conducting missionary activity with violation of the requirements of legislation on freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession and on religious associations) against the director of the local religious organization “Church of Free Christians of Seventh-Day Adventists, Vladimir Knaub.
The reason for this was delivery of church literature to personnel of the administration of the Maima district of the republic of Altai–the head of the administration, his deputy, an attorney, and chief accountant.
Sets of Christian books had been prepared for all districts and city administrations of the Altai republic as part of a program of spiritual and moral revival and mass cultural education of citizens of Russia in 2012-2024. However such distribution of literature was considered to be evangelism in a place that was not designated for it and an attempt to draw them into the religious organization.
African expat nabbed by new anti-evangelism law: Pentecostal from Ghana fined for illegal evangelism in Tver
SOVA Center (29.08.2016) – http://bit.ly/2bEd4Lj – In Tver, a court fined the leader of a group of Pentecostals, a citizen of Ghana, for illegal evangelism.
On 1 August 2016, the Moscow district court of the city of Tver found E. Tua, a citizen of the republic of Ghana, guilty on the basis of part 5 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF (conduct by a foreign citizen of missionary activity with violation of the requirements of legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religious confession and on religious associations).
- [Ebenezera] Tua is the leader of a group of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals), “Christ’s Embassy.” The violation of law that he is accused of is that he “conducted religious rituals and ceremonies, including religious meetings; posted information about his beliefs on the Internet for the purpose of its promotion; and conducted missionary activity on the territory of the city of Tver, while not have the necessary documents and conditions” provided for by the law “On freedom of conscience and religious associations.”
In addition, the fact that the citizen of Ghana is in Russia on a student visa, while he engaged in evangelistic, teaching, and entrepreneurial activity, which said kind of visa does not provide for, was considered to be a violation.
- Tua admitted that he is the leader of a religious group. However he explained that the group does not have organizational documents and therefore it is impossible to issue documents authorizing members of the group to conduct missionary activity. Any member of the group may explain to willing persons the essence of their teaching. In addition, nobody from the group was engaged in attracting new members.
Nevertheless the court considered the Pentecostal guilty and ordered to fine him 50,000 rubles. The court’s ruling has still not taken effect.
Anti-evangelism law used against traditional Russian church: Baptist fined for evangelism in house of worship in Noyabrsk
By Roman Lunkin
Religiia i Pravo (26.08.2016) – http://bit.ly/2bT3CP8 – The anti-evangelism Yarovaya Law has been applied in practice not only for putting an end to activity of religious groups, but also in addition to verifications that are conducted within religious organizations. While the very provisions of the law on freedom of conscience and the definition of evangelism that exist in Russian legislation after the adoption of the Yarovaya Package are being violated.
In Noyabrsk, a large city in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district, representatives of the government liquidated a playground which was organized in July 2016 near the house of worship of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (the congregation is a member of the Russian Union of EKhB). A commissioned inspection including personnel of the prosecutor’s office, Ministry of Emergency Services, city administration, Consumer Inspection, and commission for juvenile affairs judged the trampoline, bungee jumping, and children’s games to be an “unsanctioned children’s camp.” According to photographs, which were published on the Internet, it is evident that what the Baptists organized was a playground. Consequently, various agencies found violations of conditions for children staying in a “camp.” For example, “there was no contract for providing lunch.” In addition, the Baptists had not given notification that they intended to organize such a “camp.” Although the pastors of the church maintain that they have permits for the playground.
The organizer of the playground, the pastor of the “Regeneration” EKhB [Evangelical Christian-Baptist] church in Staroye Urengoye, Alexander Podlolzin, noted in an interview with the writer that actually there was no camp on the territory of the house of worship. Local authorities knew perfectly well that the believers provide children recreation in this way. Playgrounds have been conducted for years both in Noyabrsk and in Urengoye. Besides, representatives of the government had no complaints against the church with respect to invitations for children to the playground, since they were children of believing parents, including church members. The congregation had the right to arrange recreation for their own children on their own territory.
However, something else apparently caught the attention of police and the prosecutor’s office. The issue is that with the 43 children there also were involved citizens of Ukraine and the USA, guests from Slavic churches of these countries with whom the Baptists maintain relations. Among the guests the inspectors did not discover the necessary pedagogical education and medical books. Podkolzin also told the news agency Ura.ru: “We cooperate with Slavic churches in the USA. They were created by our compatriots or citizens of the former USSR who emigrated to the States in their time. They are Russian-speaking.”
Besides this, Podkolzin said that after the inspection of the playground personnel of the prosecutor’s office entered the house of worship and found there a tray with religious literature. Personnel of the agencies decided that the children might hear sermons and the literature was being distributed somehow improperly.
In fact, games and classes also were conducted with the children, which were not religious but moral training (the concepts of good and evil, friendship), and there were books on the tables describing the teaching of the church.
As a result a pastor of the EKhB church in Noyabrsk, Aleksei Teleus, was fined 5,000 rubles in accordance with the Yarovaya Law. Teleus was held administratively accountable on the basis of part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code on Administrative Violations of Law of the RF: “Performance of missionary activity with violation of the requirements of legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religious confession and on religious associations.” There was no more detailed explanation of the reasons for such a punishment, and the church did not want to appeal the fine.
The story of the closing of the children’s camp in Noyabrsk also has a socio-political subtext. As local observers note, the Baptist church has become a bargaining chip on the eve of September elections in 2016. The chief of the Department on Matters of Public Security of the administration of Noyabrsk, Rostislav Isaev, has spoken out against the church. He made comments on this matter in the press, noting that the church allegedly receive deserved punishment in the form of a fine, although formally the fine was not at all for the organization of a “camp.” The inspection in the Baptist church was conducted at a time when the mayor of the city (city manager), Aleksei Romanov, was on vacation and his staff decided to make a high-profile case to show they were busy. Believers say that personnel of the prosecutor’s office took on the church because they knew about the conduct of the playground.
Thanks to the “good” attitude of the prosecutor’s office, the playground was closed on the last day of its term, that is, it lasted its whole intended term. Then the deputy prosecutor composed a report on the violation of conducting missionary activity for the smallest possible sum, 5,000 rubles. Thus, the Yarovaya Law has become all the more a universal means of punishment, even when there is no basic substance of a crime.