Salvation Army’s Rights Violated, Court Declares
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
STRASBOURG, France — Russia's refusal to register a Moscow branch of the Salvation Army violated the religious organization's rights to freedom of religion and association under Europe's human rights convention, a European court ruled Thursday.
The European Court of Human Rights said the Moscow authorities "did not act in good faith" when they refused to register the Salvation Army in 1999, and awarded the organization 10,000 euros ($12,700) in damages.
The Salvation Army's Moscow branch was registered as a religious group in 1992. But after a religious associations law took effect in 1997, the Moscow Justice Department did not re-register the branch on the grounds that its founders were foreign nationals.
The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 by English Methodist minister William Booth and has its international headquarters in London.
A Moscow district then ruled on the Salvation Army's appeal, saying the branch should be denied registration as a religious body because it was a "paramilitary organization" whose members wore uniforms and served in an "army." The European court ruled there was no reason to treat foreign nationals differently when it came to freedom of religion.