For Immediate Release
December 18, 2009
Who and what are affected by Russia’s Supreme Court ruling?
TAGANROG, Russia—“Forty years ago, I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and for many years I have been a member of the Taganrog Congregation. I’ve raised my children in this community. Why would the Supreme Court of my country tell me that I cannot worship here?” Yevdokiya Gluschenko, 69, reacted in disbelief to the news following the December 8 ruling by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.
Other congregation members, Yevdokiya’s friends, expressed concern for their safety now and for the safety of their families. They lamented that the Supreme Court had not respected their right to continue to choose their own beliefs and that it had even declared “extremist” 34 pieces of their Bible literature. Among those publications is the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? which serves as a primary textbook that Jehovah’s Witnesses use in their public ministry to answer common questions. Since 2005, the book has been available to the general public in countries worldwide, including Russia, but it is now being deemed “extremist” by the Russian courts.
The congregation members are not alone in their concerns. Many objective observers are speaking up. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Chair of the International Helsinki Group in Moscow, commented that “The followers of all religions consider their religion as the only true one, and no law-abiding religious group should be denied that right by Society. Otherwise we will go back to the religious intolerance not only of the Soviet era, but of the Middle Ages.” Ms. Alexeyeva believes that Jehovah’s Witnesses will need to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights and that the decision of the Russian court will ultimately be reversed. “In the meantime,” she says, “I regret to admit that in the eyes of European community Russia will look like a barbarous country, medieval and intolerant of religious minorities.”
Reminiscent of what happened to the Taganrog Congregation, a lower court in Gorno-Altaysk has already ruled against the Gorno-Altaysk Congregation and declared 18 religious publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses as being “extremist.” A court date of December 23, 2009, was set for the appeal hearing in the Supreme Court of the Altay Republic. However, on December 17, 2009, the court returned the case files to the Gorno-Altaysk City Court. The new date for the hearing has not yet been provided.
Contacts: Russia: Yaroslav Sivulskiy, Telephone: +7 911 087 80 09
Grigory Martynov, Telephone: +7 911 101 76 24
USA: J.R. Brown, telephone +1 718 560 5600
Europe: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, telephone: +32 2 782 0015