29 September 2008, 17:59
Moscow sees nothing new but usual set of claims in U.S. religious freedom report
Moscow, September 29, Interfax - Moscow thinks that the 2008 International Religious Freedom report by the U.S. Department of State, which again criticizes Russia, is tendentious.
"Another annual International Religious Freedom report by the U.S. Department of State published on their website the other day traditionally shows a tendentious approach to Russia," the Russian Foreign Ministry's Press and Information Department said in a statement on Monday.
"A standard set of claims about Russia, which moves from one report to another, attracts attention," the statement reads.
In particular, the Russian federal law on the freedom of conscience and associations allegedly disadvantages non-traditional confessions, the statement reads.
"Despite recently adopted amendments to the Russian law on non- governmental organizations, which considerably simplifies requirements to their registration and accounting, the Department of State again complains that the current rules are 'highly burdensome,'" the statement reads.
"The thesis about the privileged status of the Russian Orthodox Church is again exaggerated in the report," the ministry said. "The fact that Orthodox Christmas is a holiday in Russia is used as a 'proof' for this, as if the multinational U.S. does not officially celebrate Catholic Christmas," the document reads.
"We understand that it is not always easy for the U.S. Department of State's experts to understand the history of Russia, in which Orthodoxy and Islam coexisted for over 1,000 years, where Jewish and Buddhist communities have been developing for centuries and where Catholicism and various Protestant movements have found their followers," the statement reads.
"Traditional Russian confessions have seen a revival in recent years, and the state offers support to their charity, social and education programs," the ministry said.
"At the same time, we still proceed from the fact that the activity of a certain religious organization should not go beyond the framework of the Russia legislation. If laws are violated and if there is a threat to people and society, the state cannot be a silent observer and must take relevant actions," the statement reads.
"Such practices exist all over the world, and Russia is not an exception. It is likely that the report's authors from the Department of State failed to take this into consideration," the document reads.