By Kent Larsen
LDS Official Calls New Russian Law 'Unconstitutional'
MOSCOW, RUSSIA -- An LDS official in Moscow called the country's new
religion law, which went into effect on Monday, "unconstitutional" under the
current Russian constitution. The law requires that religious groups in the
country register with local governments, but so far only half the 17,500
religious groups in Russia have registered. Alexei Marchenko, a Moscow
representative of the LDS Church, told Agence France Presse "This law
contravenes the Russian constitution, which proclaims the equality of
religions in Russia."
Under the new law, religious groups must register with local governments to
have the right to hold services in public places, distribute literature, own
property or invite foreign guests, including missionaries. It is not known
if the LDS Church has been able to register in all the regions of Russia
where it is active, but the law may limit the Church's ability to register
in places where it is currently not active.
Other religions have had difficulty registering. "We are registered with all
the regional authorities, except in Moscow. In the capital, they rejected
our demand on the pretext that we are a subversive military organization.
It's absurd," said the Salvation Army's Colonel Kenneth Baillie. The
Jehovah's Witnesses also faced similar trouble, "In North Ossetia, we
obtained all the necessary authorizations, bought a venue which we had
started to repair, and when everything was ready we were thrown out without
any reason," said senior Jehovah's Witness figure Yaroslav Sivulsky.
Marchenko claims that the Russian Orthodox Church is behind the law. "The
Orthodox church wants to have an ideological monopoly in Russia." He went on
to say that the Orthodox Church is all but encouraging violence against
other religions, "The Orthodox church has never condemned the many acts of
violence which our missionaries have suffered from in the name of Orthodoxy."
Sects and Religions in Russia Face Day of Reckoning
Russia Today (AFP) 30Dec00 T1