Say “Inquisition - Stop!” to the Council of the Ministry of Justice in Russia – a Campaign for Religious Human Rights
On April 22, 2009, the Slavic Center for Law and Justice started “Inquisition - Stop!,” a campaign to take action to save the secular state in Russia and to combat the presence of radical orthodox fighters against sects in the Council for State Religious Expertise at the Ministry of Justice of Russian Federation. “Inquisition - Stop!” is collecting signatures for an open appeal to the Minister of Justice, Alexander Konovalov, and a copy will also be sent to the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin. We have already collected around 3,000 signatures.
We invite you to join us in this campaign and welcome everyone from all over the country: scientific and religious communities, public figures, lawyers and human rights activists, religious organizations, research centers, and ordinary citizens of Russia. Your comments and opinions will be published on our website, www.sclj.ru. You may also send your comments and signatures under the appeal on e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Moreover, the Council at the Ministry of Justice in Russia is already engaged in influencing government officials and law enforcement agencies with their anti-sects policies. They plan to limit “non-traditional” religious organizations by making them illegal.
The public campaign “Inquisition - Stop!” is an opportunity to openly and publicly express our protest against this modern day “Inquisition,” where interrogators forcibly work to “save our souls” against our free-will and discredit religious experts. This campaign is a protest against clericalization of the society and the destruction of the foundations of the legal and secular state in Russia.
“Inquisition - Stop!” will continue until we reach our goal.
The Russian government has issued a series of restrictive legislations against non-traditional religious organizations. On March 3, 2009, the Ministry of Justice appointed the Council for State Religious Expertise at the Ministry of Justice of Russian Federation. This Council has the same power as the former Soviet Council of Religious Affairs which outlawed religion in Soviet Russia. The Council consists of anti-sect fighters, recognized by the government and the Russian Orthodox Church. The members in particular are: Alexander Dvorkin, leader of the Anti-Sects Religious Center at Dvorkin Center; Alexander Kuzmin, leader of the Saratov Branch of Dvorkin Center, Yevgeny Mukhtarov. The Board is also assisted by the priest of the Russian Orthodox Church, Lev Semenov; Dvorkin Center staff; Andrey Vasilchenko, a specialist on German fascism, author of a number of books on the Third Reich, and one of the founders of the nationalist organization “Patriotic Youth League” (1990) together with Yevgeny Mukhtarov.
On April 3, 2009, the Russian Ministry of Justice held its first meeting of the Expert Council. In accordance with Federal Law dated July 23, 2008, the Ministry of Justice granted the authority to determine the conduct of state religious exercise.
Another restrictive order was issued by the Ministry of Justice on February 18, 2009, and the order was approved by the Council of State Religious Expertise. The objectives of this order came into force on March 31, and include the following:
- Registration of a religious organization on the basis of constituent documents, information on the basics of faith and the practice of it.
- Verification of information provided by a religious organization.
- Verification of conformity with the declared State standard of religious behavior.
In addition, the order provides that the Ministry of Justice will have Councils for State Religious Expertise in every region in Russia. As such, they are entitled to request the examination of any religious organization and monitor its compliance with the statutes.