The Russian state wants to restrict the activities of Evangelicals

Moscow, Russia - The Russian Ministry for Justice has proposed amendments to the law on "Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations" that, if adopted, will introduce stronger restrictions on the activities of Evangelicals in the country. The community is on alert: If the proposal becomes law, among other things the evangelicals can no longer pray freely without a permit and people with a “criminal record” will not be allowed become members of their communities. The latter condition, which also concerns other religious groups because it would clear the path for state interference in the individual freedom of conscience.

The document that first appeared in mid-October at the Ministry for Justice - later reported by - contains, for the first time, a precise definition for "evangelical activities"; the text speaks of 'activities of a religious association aimed at spreading its confessional beliefs among people who are not members with the intent to attract these people to the association itself. "

The evangelical communities are known for their aggressive proselytizing in war zones and even at the risk of their own life. In Russia, on the other hand, the Orthodox Church has always been very careful to protect its sphere of influence, and opposed to all forms of proselytizing.

According to the proposal of the Ministry of Justice, only the leaders of evangelical organizations will have the right to preach. All the others (for the evangelicals every believer is also a priest, ed) will need a permit from the authorities. Even foreigners will be required to have written authorization to spread their teaching. The document prohibits preachers, both Russian and foreign, from leading prayers in churches and monasteries of other communities, offering material or social benefits to potential new recruits and the use the use of force, psychological pressure or manipulation of consciences.

If the amendments are adopted, in the declaration to register as a religious community, information about leaders must be provided to authorities. A fundamental requirement is the exclusion of persons from the community who are convicted of inciting religious or ethnic hatred and other crimes of extremist nature. "The problem is that you may not know the criminal background of all the faithful - says Deacon Andrei Kuraev, professor at the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy - nor on the other hand can you close the door on him." "In this way - complains Kuraev - the state will decide who is entitled or not to belong to a religious organization".

Penalties for any offenders are mostly financial: those who involve children in religious activities without parental consent, must pay a fine of between 2 and 5 thousand rubles. Evangelical worship without authorization will cost up to 7 thousand rubles. Those who, despite a criminal conviction for extremism, continue to preach will be fined from 7 to 10 thousand rubles. Those who allow evangelical activities to take place in the churches of other communities, hospitals or government buildings will be sanctioned with fines of up to 15 thousand rubles.