2006-03-20 12:22:00

Russian MFA Information and Press Department commentary regarding the U.S. House of Representatives resolution on violation of religious freedom in the Russia

The U.S. House of Representatives passed another anti-Russian resolution. This time the congressmen expressed their dissatisfaction with ‘the violation of the rights of believers and restriction of religious freedom in Russia.’ A draft was prepared by the Helsinki Commission of the U.S. Congress and proposed by its co-chairmen congressman Ch.Smith and senator S.Brownback. It has been shelved in the Parliament since last summer and surfaced (vote in the House of Representatives) only now, on the threshold of the G8 summit in St.Petersburg.

The essence of the draft is that non-traditional religions in Russia have problems regarding their registration and the opportunity to freely practice their faith.

The specifics of peculiar American assessments of the legislative practice of foreign states in such a delicate sphere as freedom of conscience has long been known. The American model of legal regulation of these problems is very exotic, as it is based on the declaration of absolute formal equality among all religious communities and their practical elimination from public affairs. Such a legal model is not used anywhere in the world, but the U.S. The laws of the overwhelming majority of European and Asian countries, whose civilizations have developed on the basis of traditional religions, give obvious legal preference to one or, as an exception, several such traditional religions. It is worth noting that the attempt by American lawmakers to pass judgement on the specifics of the legal regulation of aspects of freedom of conscience outside the American territory looks at the least strange.

Russia, a country whose contemporary civilization has been developing in the Eastern Christian tradition (from 60% to 80% of the population consider themselves Orthodox believers), currently has laws regulating religious practices that are unprecedented in their liberality according to European standards. It is not accidental that since new Federal Law of the Russian Federation on the ‘Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations’ was adopted in 1997, Russian authorities have not received any complaints regarding the use of this law. As far as law enforcement practice is concerned, American advocates of certain public groups claiming to be religious organizations (for instance, the Scientologist church), some Pentecostal churches, associations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, should know that the above-mentioned associations can carry out their work in the Russian territory even without legal registration. The number of refusals in registration of religious associations is minimal and is conditioned only by technical problems. Orthodox communities encounter the practice of refusals more often but resolution of the House of Representatives does not mention them for some reason.

However, there is a number of religious associations such as ‘Aum Senrike’, ‘Islamic Jihad’, ‘The Muslim Brothers’ that failed to receive registration in the territory of Russia. We hope that American congressmen are not concerned with their rights.

March 18, 2006