For Immediate Release
February 7, 2001
Key testimony rejected as Moscow banning trial resumes
MOSCOW, RUSSIA—Judge Yelena Prokhorycheva yesterday rejected a motion to accept a sociological study entitled The Family and the Bible, conducted by A.I. Antonov, head of the Department of Family Sociology at the Lomonsov Moscow State University, as attempts to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses resumed in the Moscow Golovinsky Intermunicipal Disctrict Court today.
Based on a random selection of about 1,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow, this sociological study establishes that the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses “plays an important role in strengthening the institute of the family.” In particular it shows a divorce rate among Jehovah’s Witnesses of less than 5 percent compared with 40 percent among the general population of Moscow. The study also revealed a much higher level of education, when compared with the average Muscovite, which tends toward independent rational thinking and decision-making by Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Tolerant attitudes and conduct improve the longer a person is a Witness,” said Professor Antonov. These conclusions refute some of the key charges against Jehovah’s Witnesses in this trial, which is seen as a major test case of Russia’s 1997 law on religious freedom.
Because of a lack of substantive evidence condemning their activities, the trial has the potential of developing into a theological debate centered on the Bible-based beliefs and doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which differ from Russia’s traditional Orthodox teachings. John Burns, a Canadian human rights lawyer, compared this court case to the Inquisition. “It is reminds one of the treatment accorded to John Wycliffe in the Middle Ages and to later Protestant Reformers .”
Galina Krylova, a prominent Russian lawyer, said: “The trial demonstrates that theological differences should not be used as grounds for criminal accusations and should not be accepted by either prosecutors or courts of law.”
The civil trial against the Witnesses, which began in September 1998, was suspended on March 12, 1999, pending a review of the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses by five court-appointed religious and linguistic experts. Four experts have presented an opinion that rehashes the old accusations. However, one of the experts submitted a dissenting opinion.
Contact: J. R. Brown (718) 560-5600