WorldNetDaily - Church dissolved for having flower boxes; ECHR reviewing case against Biblical Center
October 7, 2010
By Bob Unruh, WorldNetDaily
A church in Russia's Chuvash Republic that was ordered by the state to be
dissolved for teaching children and having flower boxes in its facility may get
a reprieve with the decision by the European Court of Human Rights to consider
whether the case should be reviewed.
Word of the development in the years-long dispute comes from The Slavic
Center for Law and Justice, a non-governmental, non-profit group focusing on
protecting religious rights and freedoms.
The organization, which engages in litigation and provides legal services in
the defense of religious activity, said the ECHR now has accepted an application
to determine if it will hear the case.
"That's an important step to what has been a very lengthy process," the
organization said. It was in April 2008 when the SCLJ applied to the ECHR on the
grounds that the Russian government violated the rights of the Biblical Centre
of Chuvash Republic.
The court now has requested that the Russian government respond to the
allegations in the application and several questions regarding the incidents
concerning the church, the SCLJ said.
"Among these questions, the government will have to answer whether it granted
the centre a reasonable time to correct the alleged sanitation violations, which
stated that having flower boxes on the premises and not having locks on the
doors violated Russian sanitation laws. The government will also have to address
whether the forced dissolution of the centre furthered, as the law requires, a
'pressing social need' along with explaining what was the factual basis for the
conclusion that the centre had repeatedly or grossly violated Russian law to
justify the dissolution of the centre."
The case started developing after the Biblical Centre, which was registered
as a religious organization in Russia, in 1996 opened a Bible school to train
its leaders. On Sundays, parents taught Bible lessons to children.
In 2007, the local prosecutor began a series of inspections of the church
organization's facility, claiming to be concerned over fire and safety rules.
Eventually, the prosecutor brought a series of complaints that the facilities
were "not adequate to provide students with a comfortable working space, the
benches are self-made; the walls are covered with paper and difficult to clean,
the windows are decorated with flower pots; and the doors to the restrooms lack
Further, he claimed violations of the nation's education laws since the
church was not licensed to operate as an education institution. The church
brought in the Slavic Center for Law and Justice and argued that as a recognized
religious organization it was allowed to teach its own children on Sundays.
"The Religions Act of Russia specifically states that religious education and
religious teaching of its followers are integral parts of the activities of
every religious association. Furthermore, the Centre argued that the alleged
sanitary violations could not be the basis for dissolution of the organization
because the sanitary standards apply only to educational facilities and the
Bible school and Sunday school were not educational facilities but tools used to
teach members of the faith about the faith," the Slavic Center reported.
Further, the arguments noted that the government was providing special
treatment to the Russian Orthodox Church, since it was not required to "obtain
an educational license."
The courts, however, ultimately ruled against the church and ordered it
The Slavic Center said the new hope arrived just days ago with the acceptance
by the European Court of Human Rights of an application to determine if it will
overturn the decision.
Importantly, the Slavic Center said, it will have an opportunity to argue its
case of rights violations.