Voices from Russia

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Russian Ban Against the JWs is a Victory for Common Sense. The West Should Take Note

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Recently, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation defined the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) as an extremist organisation and ruled its operations illegal. The Ministry of Justice ordered all Kingdom Halls closed and the church’s property turned over to the state. The resolution raised widespread discussion and one can see that the openly anti-Russian Western mainstream media used this opportunity to create an image of Russia as an enemy of freedom. However, one shouldn’t use “religious freedom” as an excuse to tolerate activities that violate the safety of a state and its people.

At first glance, from the point of view of freedom of religion, the ruling of the Supreme Court might seem totalitarian, but upon closer inspection of the JW’s activities, it becomes apparent that the Supreme Court had ample reason to believe this group violated Russian law. Discussion on activities carried out under the guise of “freedom of religion” is very timely. We see both moderate and extremist factions and sects in all religions. The “Muslim-invasion” in Europe over the past years raised justified concerns over the danger extremist Islam poses for the indigenous Western population; meanwhile, Christian supranational religious sects continued to strengthen. Should we build Sunni grand mosques in Europe? Should the West also restrict the activities of Mormons, Evangelicals, and JWs? What about the Freemasons and other such groups?

How do we define extremist religious denominations and what kind of actions should we take to restrict activities dangerous to the public interest? As Western countries contemplate threats from Islamists, Wahhabis, and Salafists, Russia is also aware of the threats posed by Western religious groups to its citizens. The Supreme Court stated that the JWs systematically and through central governance infringed on human rights and trampled the freedoms of its members. The sect restricts families, bans many types of education, and forbids many medical treatments. Therefore, in principle, the decision protects the rights and freedoms of Russians, and on the other hand, punishes the JWs for breaking the laws governing church activities. The state gave warning and notification to the JWs demanding that they reform, but without results. Therefore, do as the Romans do, or get out of Rome. Primarily, Russia wants to protect the necessities of life for its citizens. If a religious group creates a threat to people’s livelihood, and if it demonstrably threatens a citizen’s life, their rights, and their freedoms, shouldn’t the state ban this kind of activity and convict them of breaking laws governing church activities? On the other hand, should we in the name of religious freedom tolerate anything from religious sects and churches, even violence and terrorism?

Churches as a National Threat

Here in the war-torn Donbass, laws governing religious groups led to the ban of several religious denominations and the closure of their churches in the DNR and LNR. It’s clear that rulings on the closure of activities based on national security might seem arbitrary restrictions of freedom, but using churches and religions to harm the public interest is part of the toolkit of political influence. In mass psychology, in informational and behavioural influence, harnessing religious sects to advance political ends is common, regardless of the religious group. For example, often, hard-line elements use churches as covers, and hostile factions use “harmless” meeting and storage locations to carry out terror and sabotage. We must remember that churches are often political organisations and often very strong operators regionally; their economic, educational, and political influence on a community might be harmful to public interest and security. When countering the spread of harmful extremism, one must understand specific regional viewpoints, the interest of the national majority, and the political situation when targeting religions and their activities. What’s dangerous for some might be beneficial for others, depending on the interests sought after with the activities under examination.

The JWs are an American Religious Group

A nine-person governing body in New York is responsible for the JW’s decisions; they’re responsible for coordinating the operations and actions of the group. In the current situation, allowing any American church organisation to operate in the Russian Federation is a political question, one with multiple geopolitical angles, with national security threats as well. Increasingly, Western influences are in opposition to the interests of the majority of Russians. Russia has a critical and strategic need to protect its national interests against Western organisations that operate against its public interest by promoting the growth of Western influences in Russia. Western NGOs, media, and (presumably) religious groups, like those in the Donbass region, create security threats in their target countries, that is, in states that don’t recognise Western globalist domination (hegemony). So far, although the ruling banning the JW’s operations doesn’t appear to have links to national geopolitical threats, we can view the ban against the JWs as a defensive measure, the same as forbidding operations by Western NGOs.

Religious Freedom and Controlling Extremism

Respecting freedom doesn’t mean tolerating irresponsibility. Religious groups that don’t respect the public interest or national laws and set their own opinion and activities above the secular law are irresponsible and we shouldn’t tolerate them. We need to classify all such activity as extremism. Public interest means the good of the majority, and a minority can’t force its opinions on the majority in the name of democracy. If some religious group infringes the basic rights and freedoms of citizens, it’s a question of breaking the law. Therefore, no religious group should have the right to impose unlawful rules on its members, let alone on all others in the name of its religion. We must monitor activities in churches, prayer rooms, mosques, and other religious locations; we must prosecute all churches operating against the national laws and interest. We must remember that extremism is always a threat to the good of the majority. When we look at the banning of the JW’s activities as a whole, the Russian judicial system’s actions in restricting extremist church activities appears in a new light and shows us a strong communal moral leadership. The West should take heed of this. They have to consider their own ever-growing threats. Only by drawing lines does order prevail.

25 April 2017

Janus Putkonen

Russian Insider

http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/russias-jehovahs-witnesses-ban-victory-common-sense-west-should-take-note/ri19684

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Moscow Court Turns Down JW Bid to Fight Minyust Ban

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Our correspondent reported from the courtroom that Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky Court rejected a lawsuit filed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group against a Justice Ministry (Minyust) ruling on banning its activity in Russia. The JWs asked the court to overturn the Minyust ruling as illegal and order its cancellation. Judge Nelli Rubtsova said:

The court decided to reject the lawsuit of the religious organisation “Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre in Russia”.

On 20 April, the Supreme Court declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be an extremist organisation and outlawed its activity throughout Russia, upholding a Minyust request. The court declared the immediate shutdown of all 395 JW local chapters in Russia and transferred the organisation’s assets into state custody. The Jehovah’s Witnesses said it would appeal the decision. In its lawsuit, the Minyust pointed to various breaches in the organisation’s activities revealed during a surprise inspection, including violations of the Law on Counteracting Extremist Activities.

On 12 October 2016, Moscow’s Tverskoy Raion Court issued a warning to the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre based on exposure of extremism there. Under Russian law, a religious association or organisation can lose registration (effective termination) if it doesn’t remedy the specified manifestations of extremism before the required deadline or if it displays any new ones.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organisation that disseminates offbeat views on Christian doctrine and offers idiosyncratic interpretations of many commonly accepted beliefs.

24 April 2017

TASS

http://tass.com/world/942943

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Russia’s Supreme Court Deems Jehovah Witnesses Extremist, Bans Organisation

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On Thursday, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled the activities of the main centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia to be extremist, banning its work, and seizing their property. Judge Yuri Ivanenko ruled:

The Supreme Court ruled to sustain the claim of the Ministry of Justice (Minyust) and deem the “Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia” organisation extremist, eliminate it, and ban its activity in Russia.

Earlier, the Minyust applied for an order to shut down the JW’s national headquarters near St Petersburg. Judge Ivanenko said:

The state will confiscate the property of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” organisation.

Following the ruling, JW representatives said that the group would appeal the court’s decision, stressing that they’re prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The judicial ruling hasn’t yet taken legal effect. Should the JWs lodge an appeal, the ruling would come into legal force at the announcement of the appellate resolution. Otherwise, the ruling would become final within 30 days.

In March, the authorities suspended the activities of the Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia… the largest Jehovah’s Witnesses group in the country, with some 175,000 adherents. According to the Minyust, the suspension came because the group conducted “extremist activity”.

20 April 2017

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/russia/201704201052821725-russia-supreme-court-jehovah-witnesses-extremism/

Russia Passes Law Banning Bizarre Baby Names

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On Friday, the Gosduma (lower house of the Federal Assembly) passed a bill that bans parents from officially giving their babies names that are foul words, numbers, titles, or abbreviations. Pavel Krasheninnikov, the head of the Gosduma Committee for State Construction and Legislation, told us that the law bans figures, abbreviations, numerals, symbols, characters that aren’t letters (except a dash), obscene words and titles or positions as baby names. Nevertheless, the law grants parents an opportunity to give their baby a dual surname at birth. Krasheninnikov said:

Until now, the law allowed a “double-barrelled” surname after marriage, when a couple could combine two surnames in one. The law would grant parents a right to give a dual surname at birth, combining the surnames of mother and father. The previous legislation also failed to oblige people to give their offspring names that didn’t violate the children’s interests or rights. We know about such weird names as Air Traffic Controller, Lancelot, Lexus, Lettuce, or BOChrVF260602 (which translates to “biological human object of the Voronin-Frolov family born on 26 June 2002”), Prince, or Tsar. Most children with such names are subject to bullying at kindergartens and schools and usually feel outcasts. Children can’t change their names before the age of 14. The law formalised a child’s right to a normal life, to well-balanced growth, and respect for their individuality and human dignity. As you know, your rights end where my rights begin.

BOChrVF260602, who is already 14, still has no ID papers since the Moscow registration office refused to register such an outlandish name. Subsequently, a court upheld this ban.

21 April 2017

TASS

http://tass.com/society/942631

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