28 October 2009, 16:12
U.S. religious freedom reports on Russia becoming more balanced - Moscow Patriarchate
Moscow, October 28, Interfax - The U.S. Department of State's annual reports on international religious freedom are becoming more balanced and impartial from year to year when the matter concerns Russia, in the view of a Moscow Patriarchate spokesman.
"The Department of State's reports have seen progress in terms of correctness of descriptions of Russian legal and social realities over the past several years," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Church and Society Relations, said to Interfax-Religion.
In commenting on the section of the Department of State's 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom dealing with Russia, Father Vsevolod said the document "quite accurately describes the legal system of relations between the state and religious organizations that has taken shape in Russia and the structures existing for dialogue between the state and religious communities."
At the same time, Father Vsevolod disagreed with a number of provisions in the report, such as its criticism of protests against some religious groups and the establishment of a department for spiritual security and assistance to victims of destructive cults and sectarian extremism in one of the Russian Orthodox Church's dioceses.
"I am sure that believers are fully entitled to criticize views of people from other religious groups, especially when these religious groups have a destructive effect on the lives of families, society, and religious communities that the protesters represent. This is a natural manifestation of freedom of speech, which implies the possibility of religious polemics," he said.
The report mentions without criticism the fact that the Russian Church has more active ties with the state than other religious groups, Father Vsevolod said.
"I view this as natural and normal, because this is the church of a majority having the best opportunities for social, educational, and other socially helpful activities. At the same time, it is evident that our state actively interacts with other religious communities proportionally to their real presence in society, which the report mentions as well," he said.