February 24, 1999
The prosecution called I.V. Metlik, a so-called “expert” in religious studies. He prepared an opinion on the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1996 for the Committee for Rescuing Youth from Totalitarian Sects. He alleged the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses contains “ultra communist, anti-humane ideas”, “rejects the entire sum of human culture”, and that their concept of a future earthly paradise under God’s rule was evidence of plans to establish a totalitarian regime in Russia. He criticized Jehovah’s Witnesses for their extensive references to the Bible in their literature, stating that they “take advantage of Russians’ genetic predisposition to accept the Bible.”
He argued they did not interpret the Bible correctly. On cross-examination, Krylova asked about other religious groups who interpret the Bible, such as Baptists, Mennonites and Lutherans. He responded that the Russian Orthodox Church is more authoritative. Krylova then turned to various portions of the Bible, asking Metlik to show evidence that Jehovah’s Witnesses were wrong. This lead to the judge, Metlik and Krylova reading and considering passages from Revelation 14:1; 16:16; 20:6, and Psalm 37:9, 10.
At the end of his cross-examination, Krylova asked him to tell the court what the name Jesus means. He responded that he knew but would not answer. The court directed he answer as he claimed to be a religious expert. He paused, stating “I don’t know.”
The defense called the next witness, Viktor Kagan. Dr. Kagan is vice-president of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia. Following well-defined and accepted criteria, he conducted a study on a group of 113 members of the Moscow Congregation. The group’s composition was determined by random selection. His findings showed that the test group reflected normal mental health. Further, he concluded that the test group had become more tolerant to other religions since they had become Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Court asked questions about why some parents were having difficulties when their adult children decided to become Jehovah’s Witnesses. He explained the conflict was is an old problem. These are usually authoritarian families where parents had rigid control. It is hard for such parents to accept the independent decisions of their children.
The prosecution called the final witness, Frederikh Ovsiyenko, another expert in religious studies. His evidence was fiery and emotional. With each sentence read from his opinion, he removed his glasses and elevated his volume for demonstrative effect. He claimed that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publications incited religious discord by declaring other religions to be false. During cross-examination, he grudgingly admitted that some Russian Orthodox publications do the same but there was a difference. The case before this court was about banning Jehovah’s Witnesses, not the Russian Orthodox Church.
He also claimed that the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses could lead to psychological violence. He added that they are in conflict with many states, including being banned in Germany, and other Protestant faiths regarded them as “heresy.” He knew nothing about the European Court ordering the government of Greece to pay a total of $96,000 U.S. in compensation to Jehovah’s Witnesses for violations of rights guaranteed under the European Convention.
Thursday will continue with more witnesses for the prosecution.