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Elistista City Court Dismisses Law Suit Against Adventist Parents Refusing to Have Their Children in School on Saturdays

24 April 2009

The Elista City Court of the Republic of Kalmykia has dismissed a law suit concerning an administrative breach of law against Adventist parents who refused to put their children in school on Saturdays.  The decision to dismiss the suit against Vasily Musaev, Maria Marchenko and Vitaly Tikhomirov was made on April 24 and 27.  Present during the proceedings in the Elista City Court was an authorized representative of the Russian Federation’s Human Rights Administration in the Republic of Kamykia.
The filing of this law suit for administrative breach of law began in March 2009, by the Elista deputy city prosecutor and the junior counselor of the Justice Court against the parents of pupils attending the National Russian High School of Sergey Radonezhsky, namely Vasily Musaev, Maria Marchenko and Vitaly Tikhomirov, who is also the pastor of the Elista Seventh Day Adventist Church.  The law suit was founded on the fact that the parents were not ensuring that their children attended school.  The prosecutor cited Statute 43 in the Constitution of the Russian Federation which states that all citizens have the right to an education, and that according to Statute 19 and Statute 52 of Federal Law “Concerning Education,” basic education is mandatory.  Parents must ensure that their children receive basic education, bear responsibility for their children’s upbringing, and carry out the regulations of the institution of education.  It was emphasized in the claim that the actions of the parents thus constituted a breach of law as outlined in Statute 5.35 of the Code of Administrative Breaches of Law (CABL) of the Russian Federation – the parents’ unacceptable execution of their responsibility with regards to the education and protection of the rights of minors.  In all this, the prosecutor did not take into account that all of the children were successful and certified in all subjects,
The decision to dismiss the law suit was made on the grounds of essential procedural violations committed by the Elista city prosecutor.   Inna Zagrebina, the attorney representing the interests of the Seventh Day Adventists, noted that the representatives of the prosecution were so confident in their case and that the court would rule in their favor that they completely ignored the requirements for filing a law suit as given in the CABL.  So, their claim did not show when the breaches were committed, the time period when they were committed, when they ended, etc.
Furthermore, the claim made by the Commission for Juvenile Affairs which examined the case of the Adventist parents and made the accusation about their “unacceptable execution” of parental responsibility had no signature of the official figure (the chairman of the Commission), no list of the membership of the collegiate board, and no indication of what exactly the unacceptable execution of parental responsibilities with regards to education entailed.  Along with all that, in the court decision, they were unable to establish any kind of remote connection to administrative responsibility, while on the other hand, it was established that the children were succeeding in all school subjects.
At the sessions of the City Council Commission for Juvenile Affairs in March, the religious followers said, “They called the church a sect and discussed matters with a sufficiently negative tone.”  According to Pastor Tikhomirov, testimonials were read during the sessions from both the director of the National Russian High School of Sergey Radonezhsky and from class instructors.  The school director intentionally characterized the children as unsuccessful and weak in their studies, while the teachers offered completely opposite opinions.  As Tikhomirov noted, the situation was confusing to the chairman of the Commission.  When Pastor Tikhomirov asked if religious considerations were a valid reason for the children to not attend school, the members of the Commission answered that it was not.  The Pastor especially noted, “One of the members of the Commission called our church a sect; and when I corrected her, she dismissively said, ‘…It is still a sect.’”
According to Inna Zagrebina, during the examinations, the representative of the Commission for Juvenile Affairs, Y. N. Bastaeva, speaking for the accusers, claimed that the Adventist parents were not acting fairly because it is offensive to the other children that they must study and go to school on Saturdays.  The representative of the prosecution was outraged by the fact that the attorney representing the Adventists cited not only the Constitution of the Russian Federation, but also international documents, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and others, while she herself was unable to name any part of the law that had been broken.
In the opinion of Inna Zagrebina, in the legal world, there is always a compromise between secular legal standards and religious institutions.  Without intending to, the city prosecutor and the Commission for Juvenile Affairs by their own amateurish actions have only helped the situation along by portraying happy families as lawbreakers.  At the same time, hundreds of children in Elista remain without appropriate attention or care both from parents and government.


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