From: PWCarden@aol.com Sent: Wednesday, May 26, 1999 1:20 AM To: undisclosed-recipients:; Subject: Fwd: Important Report on Re-registration of Russian Jehovah'sWitnesses
Note that this account includes important information NOT included in other reports (e.g., the section beginning "But the Ministry itself demanded that certain amendments had to be introduced into the charter of Jehovah's Witnesses Russian organisation. The main demand was to exclude preaching at the doorstep....").
---------------- Begin Forwarded Message ---------------- Date: 05/12 1:53 PM Received: 05/18 11:33 AM From: Ray Prigodich, Prigodich@aol.com
Tuesday 11 May 1999 RUSSIAN JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES FINALLY RE-REGISTERED
Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service [for personal use only]
The religious organisation of Jehovah's Witnesses was finally registered in Russia - on 29 April, one day before the expiry of the six-month period stipulated by the 1997 law on religion within which a decision must be reached. 'Now the question arises of re- registration on a local level', says ARTUR LEONTEV, the lawyer who prepared the documents for registration.
The Expert Council of the Ministry of Justice, which decides whether to issue a registration, delayed the decision five times. The head of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, VASSILI KALIN, was asked questions like 'Does your organisation force its members to refuse blood transfusions?' or 'Does the organisation press its members not to serve in the armed forces?' Each time he had to give written answers.
The deliberate dragging out of the registration process seemed to have a specific, though unspoken, explanation. The Moscow Golovinsky court is still hearing a case against the local Jehovah's Witness community initiated by a Committee for the Salvation of Youth. This Committee demands that a stop be put to Jehovah's Witness activities as harmful to young people. The hearing has been adjourned for the gathering of expert opinions. Kalin claims that local Jehovah's Witness communities have received refusals to register them in twenty cases - all because of the Moscow court case.
However, the Ministry of Justice Expert Council could not postpone its decision further because of six months' rule and finally considered the Jehovah's Witness registration. It was granted. But the Ministry itself demanded that certain amendments had to be introduced into the charter of Jehovah' Witnesses Russian organisation. The main demand was to exclude preaching at the doorstep. The law on religion of 1997 says nothing specific against this activity but the Ministry officials insist that as this method of preaching was not mentioned in the law, it should not be in the charter either. The lawyer representing the Jehovah's Witnesses was told that the Ministry receives telephone complaints from members of the public who object to Jehovah's Witnesses calling at their doors as 'arousing displeasure'.
Another demand was that the Jehovah's Whitnesses Administrative Centre draw up contracts with its voluntary workers. The Centre was against this because it might be interpreted as hiring workers commercially. SERGEI VASSILEV, one of the leaders of the Moscow Jehovah's Witness community, told Keston that in his opinion the Ministry was trying to establish a mechanism for applying pressure on Jehovah's Witnesses in the future.
Keston's Moscow representative interviewed a highly-placed Ministry official and was assured that the disagreements would be discussed with Jehovah's Witnesses in search of a compromise. And indeed Vassily Kalin soon reported that all the problems have been resolved. For example, as far as preaching is concerned the words 'home to home' have been replaced with 'on domestic premises'.
The leaders of Russian Jehovah's Witnesses hope that the registration of their Administrative Centre in Saint-Petersburg will have a positive effect on the general standing of the organisation and its local communities. It may even influence the outcome of the Moscow court case since a decision to ban Jehovah's Witness activities in the capital of Russia would fly in the face of their recent registration nationwide. But Kalin is not overly optimistic. He told Keston: ' The Russian media wage a campaign of hatred against us. Last year, there were some 600 hostile reports in the press, on radio and television. In the first four months of this year we spotted more than 200 such slanderous reports. These include the most absurd charges. A man allegedly beat up his wife and children because they did not want to attend the Jehovah's Witness meeting. We checked this out - this man has never been a Witness. Or, in a town where several Jehovah's Witnesses work at the nuclear power station, the local paper warned: 'Beware! The Jehovah's Witnesses have access to nuclear weapons!' In a broadcast of one of the national TV networks, an allegation was made that Jehovah's Witnesses collaborated with Hitler; in fact, the Nazis severely persecuted the Jehovah's Witnesses. But our attempts to refute such slanderous inventions are usually met with evasive replies like 'your article is not in accord with our editorial policy'.
One day after the registration, on 30 April, the newspaper Segodnya published an account of the remarks made by GENRIKH MIKHAILOV, the secretary of the Russian government's commission for liaison with religious associations. He spoke of an activisation of 'all sorts of religious sects' ahead of parliamentary elections due later this year. Jehovah's Witnesses, said Mikhailov, were conducting a campaign 'of an openly aggressive character' and were even trying to get their representatives into legislative bodies. Strangely, during the Moscow court case the Jehovah's Witnesses were accused of just the opposite - of refusal to recognise the state and the authorities.
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