Over 21,000 religious organizations registered in Russia

Over 21,000 religious organizations of 59 different faiths have been registered in Russia, First Deputy Justice Minister Yevgeny Sidorenko told parliamentary hearings organized by the Duma religious organizations committee.

Over 2,000 checks on the activities of religious associations carried out last year resulted in the dispatch of 1,900 warnings for infringements on legislation, and 246 applications to courts for the closure of various religious organizations, he said.

Over 4,000 churches and monuments and 15,000 items in museums were returned to the Orthodox Church over the last decade, Sidorenko said.

On the other hand, "because of inconsistencies between federal and regional legislation, the activities of certain religious organizations are hard to supervise," he said.

Sidorenko called for "filling in gaps and removing inconsistencies in the federal Freedom of Conscience and Religious Beliefs Law, without changing its fundamentals."

"Special attention must be given to proselytizing activities pursued in Russia by foreign organizations, whose number increased from 20 to 59 over the last decade," he said.

The federal expert council reporting to the Justice Ministry is doing a good job, but its logistical support remains insufficient, and its members are not paid for their activities, Sidorenko said.

The Russian Orthodox Church has spoken against changing the current procedure for registering religious organizations. It does not support the initiative of some deputies to cancel the rule that states that an organization has to have worked in Russia for 15 years in order to be registered.