In the name of the Russian Federation
February 23, 2001
The Golovinsky Intermunicipal District Court of Moscow
Presiding Judge, Ye.I. Prokhorycheva
Lay judges, A.B. Sugyan and T.I. Barkovskaya
With the participation of prosecutor, T.I. Kondratyeva
And attorneys, G.A. Krylova and N.V. Leontyev
Secretaries, T.A. Egorova, A.V. Shilina
Having reviewed in an open court hearing civil case No. 2-83/2001 presented by the Prosecutor of the Northern Administrative District of Moscow to liquidate the Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Moscow and ban its activity,
That the prosecutor of the Northern Administrative District of Moscow filed an application requesting the liquidation and banning of the activity of the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Moscow, registered by the Moscow Department of Justice on 30 December 1993.
As a basis for the application, the prosecutor alleges that the religious community incites religious discord by distributing in Moscow The Watchtower and Awake! magazines, letters, and other literature issued by the given organisation. Moreover, the religious community coerces to destroy the family, infringes on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens, inclines [others] to commit suicide or refuse medical care for religious reasons, and lures teenagers and children into the organisation’s activity.
Representatives of the religious community opposed the application, claiming that the prosecutor did not present any factual evidence to establish the presence or absence of circumstances substantiating the demands and objections of the parties, and other circumstances significant for proper resolution of the case. The application is based on the religious organisation’s doctrinal literature, which was presented to the court as evidence, yet this cannot be proof of any actions. In essence, the prosecutor requests that the religious beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses be declared unlawful in the city of Moscow, deeming the beliefs of Orthodox Christianity as acceptable. However, confessional preferences and religious arguments are not legally protected interests in the meaning of Article 3 of the Civil Procedural Code of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.
The representative of the Moscow Department of Justice (the registering agency) was a third party to the case and supported the prosecutor’s application.
The court, having heard the parties, third party, witnesses, experts, investigated and reviewed the case materials, heard the submissions of the prosecutor who requests the application be satisfied, considers that the application cannot be satisfied for the following reasons.
According to Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, everyone is guaranteed freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, including the right to profess, individually or jointly with others, any religion, or to profess none at all, to freely choose, possess, and disseminate religious and other beliefs and to act in conformity with them.
Article 55, Part 3 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation states that civil rights and freedoms may be limited by federal law only to the degree necessary to protect the fundamentals of constitutional order, morality, health, rights, and legal interests of other individuals, and to ensure national defence and state security.
Corresponding to this constitutional provision are the regulations of Article 18, Part 1 of the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, as well as Article 9 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms of 4 November 1950, ratified by Federal Law of the Russian Federation No. 54 of 30 March 1998, “On the Ratification of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms,” according to which every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right includes the freedom to change one’s religion or beliefs, both individually or together with others, publicly or privately, in worship services, teachings, and in the carrying out of religious and ritual rites. Freedom to confess one’s religion or beliefs are only subject to limitations that are prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of public peace, for the protection of public order, health, and morality, or for the protection of rights and freedom of other citizens.
According to Article 15, Part 4 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, generally accepted principles and regulations of international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation are constituents of its legal system. If an international treaty of the Russian Federation establishes rules different from those set out by law, the rules of the international treaty are applied.
Article 14 of the Federal Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations,” states that religious organisations can be liquidated by decision of the court in the case of repeated or serious violations of the provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, this law and other federal laws, or in the event that the religious organisation systematically carries out activities that are in conflict with the goals for which it was created (its chartered goals). Among the grounds for liquidating a religious organisation or the banning of the activity of a religious organisation or a religious group through the courts are: inciting religious discord, coercion to destroy the family, infringement upon the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens, inclining [others] to commit suicide or to refuse medical care for individuals in a health- or life-threatening state for religious motives, motivating citizens to refuse to fulfil their civic responsibilities as established by law, as well as the committing of other illegal acts.
As the case materials show, the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow was registered by the Moscow Department of Justice on 30 December 1993, No. 432. (Volume 1-16-17) According to the Charter of the “Community,” it is a voluntary association of believers, educated for the purpose of joint profession and dissemination of the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Community enjoys the rights of a legal entity from the moment of registration of the accepted Charter in the agencies of justice. The Charter states that the purpose of the community is the joint profession and dissemination of faith, and the carrying out of religious activity to proclaim of the name of Jehovah God. This goal is achieved by means of Bible-based Christian service as a part of the worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which includes holding worship services and rites in all places provided for this purpose in accordance with current legislation, public and house-to-house preaching, publishing activity in the procedure established by law, production, purchasing, exporting, importing, and distribution of Bibles, other religious literature, and printed materials, audio- and video-recordings of a religious nature, and so forth. The Charter establishes that members of the Community are adult believers who became Jehovah’s Witnesses by their own voluntary dedication to God and subsequent water baptism.-Volume 1-9-11.
In order to establish the facts of the case, numerous witnesses were questioned during the period of the trial from February through March 1999, their testimonies were orally summarised at this court hearing and witnesses were also questioned at this court hearing.
As evidence, the prosecutor presented the decision of the Lyubertsy City Court of the Moscow Region, dated 14 April 1998, which gave custody of minor Yevgeniy Nikishin to his father, A.P. Savinkin, and obliged him not to hinder the mother, N.V. Nikishina, from associating with her son. The prosecutor stated that due to the child’s involvement in the activity of the organisation without the second parent’s consent, the couple’s family relationship greatly changed, eventually resulting in separation. Nikishina’s counterclaim against Savinkin to limit his parental rights and to give her custody of their son was denied.-Volume I - 238-244.
When A.P. Savinkin was questioned by the court as a witness in February 1999, he indicated that he and Nikishina lived in a common-law marriage from 1988 until May 1995. In 1991, N.V. Nikishina gave birth to their son Yevgeniy, but he was not registered as the child’s father. Because of her congenitally disabled vision, Nikishina was granted an apartment in the city of Lyubertsy, Moscow Region in February 1995. Later she married her cousin in 1995, and he submitted an application to establish paternity, since she would not allow him to see their son. At that time, he learned that Nikishina’s husband was registered in the registry office as the child’s father. At the end of 1995, a ruling was passed to establish paternity, as a result of which the child lived with his mother and he took the child on the weekends. N.V. Nikishina became a member of the religious community “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in 1997, and at that time, difficulties arose between them because she would not put a cross on her son, took him along with her to the meetings, and hindered their association. This traumatised the child’s psyche. He took his son with him for vacation to Anape in 1997. There was a thunderstorm during the night and the child could not sleep. He continually muttered “Jehovah, Armageddon.” Later, he forbade N.V. Nikishina to take the child with her to the meetings and in the preaching work. In March 1998, he took their son to his mother’s home and in April 1998, the aforementioned ruling was passed.
N.V. Nikishina testified that she suffers from congenitally disabled vision and in 1991, she gave birth to Savinkin’s son, with whom she lived up until May 1992. Savinkin behaved aggressively toward her, insulting her. He did not register the child as his for economic reasons, so that she would be a single mother. In 1995, she received the apartment and Savinkin would visit sometimes. When she said that she had a boyfriend, he beat her up and victimised her. After she was married, she received legal notification to establish paternity. Up until March 1998, Savinkin always took the child on the weekends, in accordance with their agreement. She began to study the Bible in June 1997, which Savinkin strongly opposed. He even threatened to take the child away. She had not seen the child for a period of two months. Savinkin would not invite him to the telephone to speak with her. Later, she was able to see him once a week. All of this had to do with the fact that Savinkin was personally prejudiced against the community, and therefore, behaved aggressively and used psychological pressure on her. She did not hinder the child from participating in clubs and team sports. She would take him to the meetings, but rarely. In an attempt to turn the school principal and parents against her, Savinkin wrote a complaint against the principal, insulted her and the principal at a meeting, and behaved aggressively. As a result, other parents took her side.
However, the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on 22 July 1999, reversed the lower court’s decision and sent it for retrial. The decision noted that N.V. Nikishina’s membership in the religious association, “Religious Community Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lyubertsy,” cannot serve as a basis for giving the father custody of the child, Yevgeniy. The mentioned religious association was registered by the Justice Department of the Moscow Region on 30 June 1997, (re-registered by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation-certificate issued 29 April 1999). Thus, the court had no reason to request an expert study on the goals and nature of the indicated association. The ultimate fact of this case could not be the nature of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the religious beliefs of the defendant. The court’s decision does not contain any solid facts showing that Nikishina, as a member of the organisation, “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” is harming the psychological health and normal development of her son, Yevgeniy. The fact that Nikishina is a member of the religious association could not serve as a basis to give the father custody of the child. The court, when making its decision, should not have entered into a discussion of the nature of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses.-Volume 3-198-204.
The ruling of the Lyubertsy Court of the Moscow Region, dated 13 March 2000, confirmed the peaceful settlement between A.P. Savinkin and N.V. Nikishina, according to which the child would live with the father, but spend a certain amount of time with his mother on the weekends, weekdays, and during school holidays.-Volume 3-203.
It is evident that the parents of the minor child were not married, and due to conflicts, discontinued living together long before N.V. Nikishina began to attend the meetings of the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses and became a member of the local religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Lyubertsy of the Moscow Region, which was registered as an independent legal entity (re-registered) on 5 May 1999. Yet, the application submitted by the prosecutor requests that the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Moscow be liquidated.
V.S. Burenkova testified that her son, born in 1971, began to attend the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses when invited by one of the teachers in the Moscow Automobile-Road Institute, where he was studying. After he finished his studies at the Institute, her son did not work in his profession, rather, he worked as a janitor, because he wanted to be a preacher. Later, he submitted an application and left to serve at Bethel in Saint Petersburg, where he has been living since 1995. He does not receive wages for his work at Bethel, just money to cover travel expenses. Eventually, she met her son’s fiancee who is also a member of the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She claimed that they came to know God and will always love one another. Her son’s wife has a medical education, but does not work at her profession at Bethel-she irons pants. When the community had a convention, her son came with his friends and stayed with her. Many of his fellow brothers and friends would come to stay with her. She asked him to leave the organisation, but he said that he enjoys being there and claimed that members of the Orthodox Church are drunks and live debauched lives. She was at her son’s wedding at Bethel in 1998, where 20 of her son’s invited guests attended. There was a meal served for everyone, including champagne. Her son told her that this was a true Christian wedding. Bethel gives her son a meagre amount of money. He received 200 rubles in March 1998. If they have a child, they will have to leave Bethel because families with children do not live there.
D.G. Burenkov testified that he was baptised in 1994, and has been a volunteer worker at the Administrative Centre of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1995, of his own will. He finished his schooling at the Moscow Automobile-Road Institute in 1990. At the Administrative Centre, he is responsible for licenses and for road transportation safety. His parents are atheists, but his grandmother is an Old Believer and had told him a lot about the Bible. He always pondered over the purpose of life, but did not understand much in the Bible. He met a teacher at the Institute who told him about Jehovah God. He began to find answers to his questions and in 1994, he became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. His life has improved-he is at Bethel and leads a meaningful life. His mother is fine with that, although there is a certain amount of tension between him and his parents. Three or four times a year he visits his parents and helps them at their summer home. The teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are based on the Bible. He and his wife live at Bethel in a one-room apartment with all of the conveniences. They have a dining room, meals three times a day, a laundry, hair care, a sauna, and a sports room. His wedding was held at Bethel in March 1998. His mother came and enjoyed the wedding. His mother had previously made the decisions about where he should work and study. After he graduated from the Institute, he worked as an electrician and then as a janitor. He received more money working as a janitor than his friends from the Institute did who worked at their professions. He met his wife in 1995. She has a higher education and her father was against their religion. But now they associate together and religious issues do not come up. They go to the theatre. He spends between eight and nine hours a week in the preaching work. He has a good relationship with his father, but his mother does not accept his faith. She is very negative toward it and even wrote a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office saying that they will pay for taking her son away from her. He fills out a preaching report-he likes knowing how much he preaches.
During the court hearing, the parties confirmed that after March 1999, the son of witness V.S. Burenkova, had a child and the couple no longer lives at Bethel.
Witness A.A. Losev stated that his son joined the community in 1995, when he was 24 years old. His son graduated from a military academy with scholastic honours. However, he changed after he began to associate with members of the community. He was married in 1995, and they see each other once or twice a year. He has not seen his sister for four years now. His son and wife rent an apartment, he quit his job in the army, and is presently working for a company that does interior finishing for offices and apartments. They had a son in 1998, he never sees his son’s wife. The community does not encourage [its members] to work at a profession. They consider it a tragedy that their son is in the community. The community mainly stresses service to Jehovah. They would like their son to be in the military. Their son could have chosen another path. He made his decision voluntarily.
Witness A.A. Losev showed that his father, A.A. Losev, is known for his intolerance toward others. His father always expressed his opinion of his friends or girlfriend, with whom he associated. He also treated his mother and sister in the same manner, he made them dependent on him for money, humiliated them. He made the sister hysterical if she did not wash the dishes. When he began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, his father opposed. He told his [son’s] friends that he has a psychological problem and is unkempt. His father did not like his choice of mate, and began to phone his wife at work, her boss, then he wrote to newspapers about their personal life. He came to their apartment where they lived and drew a cross covering their door. Therefore, he will not say where they live. Yet his mother and sister know where he lives and they have his telephone and pager numbers. Once the father came to the community’s meeting and threw a package of explosives, which the son saw. He meets with his mother when his father is not home. That is the way she wants it, otherwise her husband will cause a scandal. He has invited his sister to go with him to the theatre, but she is afraid of their father. He was baptised in 1996. His wife is also a member of the community. He resigned from the military and is presently working for a company producing computer plans for suspended ceilings. He is a publisher in the community and conducts a bookstudy, which is held once a week and is attended by 10-12 people. He spends from five to ten hours a week on all of this, his wife preaches when she can. He has offered to help his mother materially, but she has refused. In the beginning, his mother supported the father, but now she can see that their son and his wife live well. His father does not approve of his choice nor does he associate with his wife. He does not celebrate holidays with his mother; he has explained this to her and she said that it is his right. He gives gifts to his mother at other times.
Y.A. Zhuravlyov testified that the community contributes to the destruction of family relationships and explained that it was his initiative to dissolve their marriage in 1991, when his wife was not yet a member of the community. They have a daughter from their marriage, who was born in 1978, and a son, born in 1986. Their daughter, in 1994, signed a “No Blood” identity card when she was 16 years old. Their son opposed the organisation. Later, he saw the community’s literature and imagined that his daughter will be happy when he will “burn in hell.” He has a cold relationship with his daughter. His son began to live with him in April 1998, because he wanted to move away from his mother. His daughter is in her fourth year of studying at a pedagogical institute and calls him when she needs money. His wife worked as a vice-principal at a school, but since she started to preach at the school, she left. His daughter attended the community’s meetings when she was under 15 years of age.
N.Y. Zhuravlyova, born in 1978, testified that she began studying the Bible in 1992, became a baptised publisher in 1994, and became a member of the community when she was 18 years old. In 1998, after she graduated from college, she began studying at a pedagogical institute. She also took English language and computer courses. Her mother paid for her additional education. She spends a lot of time with acquaintances that are fellow believers. They go to the theatre and have picnics. She also has a good relationship with other students at the institute. Her parents were divorced because her father had another woman, a coworker, who would come to their home, call, and tell her mother about their relationship, but now they are no longer together. Her brother lives with their father and visits them once a week. Her mother began studying the Bible in 1992. Her mother works as the manager of a company. She did not push her beliefs on anyone at the school. They do not celebrate traditional holidays, but they do have their own celebrations. She preaches five hours a week.
Y.F. Slobodenyuk testified that seven years ago, his wife and her mother began studying the Bible using books of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He attended conventions and meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses while studying other literature. He expressed his opinion as an opposer of the given religion. Before 1997, he would associate with members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but he always argued and spoke of his own position. Due to conflicts, his wife left him in 1995 and then returned. During 1996 and 1997, the children attended meetings and went out in the preaching work without his knowledge. Conflicts began to arise. His wife filed for a divorce in the summer of 1998. In her statement of claim, she wrote that he had another woman. Their marriage was dissolved in October 1998. Presently, according to a peaceful settlement between him and his wife, their eldest son lives with him, while the other three children live with her. His wife was baptised in 1992, but the children are not baptised. His wife works selling flowers in Medvedkovo. He takes care of cargo for the Afghanistan Veteran’s Union. He pays alimony amounting to half of his wages. The children tell him that they are bored and do not understand anything at the meetings, which last for up to two or three hours. The mother and grandmother force the children to preach.
E.L. Slobodenyuk testified that she had been married to Y.F. Slobodenyuk since 1982, and they have four children from the marriage, a 15-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 7-year-old. The eldest son lives with the father. Their relationship changed when they received a four-room apartment in 1993. It was as if the most important thing to him was the apartment. He took the large room, lived separately from her, prepared his own food, and would not let her touch him. He had his own washing machine, ironing board, and iron. He stopped taking care of them materially, thus she was forced to ask her mother and fellow believers for food. She began studying the Bible in 1992 and was baptised in 1993. Her authority was her husband and he consented to her studying the Bible. Later, she had to get a job in a flower shop in 1996, after she had completed some courses. Then fights began to occur more frequently in the home. Her husband realised that he was losing control over her materially. She would take the children and go to her mother’s place because of the fights. After coming home from a business trip in April 1997, her husband said that he wanted to end their marriage. He told this to the children and asked the children with whom they wanted to live. Three of the children stayed with her. Then he began to gather compromising material on her. In December 1998, she saw her husband with another woman, the children also knew about her. When she preaches, the children remain with their grandparents. In 1998, while she was staying with her mother, her husband changed the lock on the door of the apartment. She had to go to court in 1998 in order to gain access. The reason for the breakup of their marriage was that her husband had another woman. She spends more of her time with the children than on the religion. She has a card refusing a blood transfusion, but the children do not have nor have they ever had such a card. She does not celebrate New Year’s, but the children stay with the father and celebrate it. She gives gifts to her children without having to celebrate holidays.
A copy of the ruling of the Babushkinsky Intermunicipal Court dated 7 December 1998, to dissolve the marriage between E.L. Slobodenyuk (plaintiff) and Y.F. Slobodenyuk (defendant) is available. The defendant objected to the break-up of the marriage in the interests of the children. The plaintiff insisted on a divorce referring to the fact that her husband threatened her and had used physical force against her. (Volume 2 - 273) The court’s ruling of 7 December 1998, satisfied the plaintiff’s claim for her and the two children to move into the four-room apartment. The defendant was ordered not to hinder their use of the registered residence.-Volume 2 - 274.
S.A. Ivanova testified that her son returned from the army in 1988, graduated from an institute in 1993, and in 1994 joined the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses to which he was introduced by a female coworker. He was 28 years old at the time. Her son was taught how to preach. He began to work part-time since a lot of time was spent preaching. Her son lost 15 kg, she asked an elder for help, but her son was sent to Bethel. Her son’s condition became very serious and he was submitted to a psychiatric hospital in 1996 after which he received Group II Disability. Her son suffered from loss of memory and inability to reason and to converse. Her son’s condition had been aggravated by being in the organisation. In 1998, her son was also admitted to the Alekseyev Psychiatric Hospital and is registered at a psychoneurological clinic. He is no longer associated with the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A copy of the conclusions from the Forensic Composite Psychological-Psychiatric Expert Study conducted on A.V. Ivanov, born in 1967, is available. The commission came to the conclusion that A.V. Ivanov, due to his mental condition, cannot correctly perceive or testify concerning the circumstances significant to the case. The fact that he has developed a mental illness is not directly related to the activity of the religious organisation, Jehovah’s Witnesses.-Volume 2 - 336-348.
Ye.G. Bakayev testified that his wife’s sister joined the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1986. Then he began to notice strange things in his wife’s behaviour and took her to the city of Korolyev. His wife began to preach there and practically did not work at all. She and her son would read The Watchtower and other magazines together. He attended a convention, spoke with foreign missionaries, tried to understand their teachings, and tried to convince his wife that this is not what she needs. Then they started to have problems in their marriage. His wife and her sister took their son to Germany in 1995. His wife filed for divorce in 1997. Their son attends meetings and preaches along with his mother. His son is not open with him and does not celebrate holidays. They all live together and according to a court decision, she receives alimony from him for taking care of the needs of their son. The son wants to stay with the mother. Before 1993, his wife attended meetings in Moscow and then in Korolyev.
R.A. Zemlyanskaya testified that she and her husband lived together for 28 years before he joined the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He worked as a teacher at the Moscow Automobile-Road Institute. He said that he wanted to study the Bible in 1993. She had an operation in 1993, and needed blood. Her husband refused to donate blood to the blood bank. She needed assistance after the operation, but her husband spent more and more time attending the meetings, he began to preach actively. He would come home from the meetings agitated, speaking about Armageddon and that only Jehovah’s Witnesses will be saved. He would quote the Bible. Her husband burned his party card, [Aleksandr] Men’s books and other books that he considered to be satanic. He expressed a negative attitude toward the Orthodox Church. When she would tell him that he had joined a sect, he would take offence. She tried to understand the teachings, she attended the meetings-the Theocratic School. He wanted to donate his vacation money to the organisation in 1994, but she spoke with him and then he changed his mind. He also agreed with her when she refused to use their apartment for meetings. Now they live like neighbours in the apartment. Her husband moved to a separate room after the father’s death. He refused to enter the Church during the funeral. Her husband was told not to distribute literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses at work. Her husband was a party member and when articles began to be appear in newspapers about Communists, he felt that he was responsible because the Communists destroyed the church. He donated money for the restoration of churches. Her husband’s restrictions include not celebrating holidays, not voting, and his preaching.
G. Y. Maltsev testified that his wife got involved in the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 1987, when their first son was born. In 1990, the kindergarten teacher asked that his wife stop distributing the literature-The Watchtower and Awake! The family was on the verge of breaking up, but in 1993, their second son was born and their relationship became more stable. His wife only takes the children to certain events and is a member of the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to the eldest son, he preached in Kiev when he was staying with his grandmother in the summer of 1998. His wife is responsible for a certain territory within the district. Once he had seen his wife and son approaching people on the street. He tried to invite his eldest son to the Orthodox Church, but he refused to go. The children no longer view him as an authority. His younger son participates in Bible scenes, plays, makes costumes, and enjoys it. The children also go to the theatre and the circus. The eldest son is in the fourth class of violin lessons. He has never brought up the subject of blood transfusion with his wife. The children spend from three to four hours a week on the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have accepted the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses. His wife spends from two to two-and-a-half hours a day preaching. But she cooks and cleans and is a good housewife. They do not celebrate holidays and this year he did not set up a Christmas tree.
I.I. Zubareva testified that her 22-year-old son has been in the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses for five years. She has three children, the younger two are 13 and 14 years old, and also attend the meetings of the organisation with her permission. She is not a member of the organisation. The eldest son graduated from the Institute of International Relations. Initially, her husband could not understand their son’s decision, but now he is in favour of it. The eldest son is baptised, while the younger two only attend meetings. The children have been getting better grades, there are less problems with them, and they have no disputes at school. The teacher knows that they go to the meetings of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The daughter takes piano lessons, the middle son enjoys sailing, and the eldest son also enjoys playing sports. He is courting a girl who also attends the meetings of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her mother is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The eldest son carries a card stating that he refuses blood transfusions and she is supportive of that.
D.D. Protsenko testified that he has been a member of the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1993 and is a member of a Hospital Liaison Committee. They help to find information from the latest medical publications on non-blood medical treatment. He graduated from the Medical Institute in 1992, from postgraduate studies in 1994, and he defended his candidate thesis in 1996. His wife is also one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but his parents are not. They have set up a relief fund, from which they are able to supply medication when necessary. In order to fill out a ‘No Blood' card for a child, both parents have to sign it.
Other witnesses questioned were: V.M. Kalin, S.V. Levitsky and Y.P. Sivulsky. They have been members of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses for several decades and their parents were also members of the organisation.
V.M. Kalin (52 years old) testified that he was not able to get a higher education because he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Twice he enrolled in an institute. His children and grandchildren are also Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was baptised at 18 years of age, he has 30 years of work experience. There were many criminal trials brought against members of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1950s and 1960s. Searches were conducted, Bibles were confiscated. The religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses helps them to have strong families. Every person can freely become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or leave the organisation. Presently, he lives with his wife at Bethel. They can leave at any time. A workday at Bethel lasts eight hours. They also have an apartment in Irkutsk, where their son and his family live. Their family, like other members of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was deported in the 1950s by Order of the State. They lived with people who were exiled for having various religious views. Baptists, Adventists, and others were repressed. V.M. Kalin’s certificate of rehabilitation No. 183113, issued 10 October 1994, was shown in the court hearing.
S.V. Levitsky testified that he became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses after his return from the Front, when he began to study the Bible in the 1950s. He was baptised in 1953. He was arrested in 1957, convicted for his religious beliefs, sentenced to 10 years, and his property was confiscated. In 1960, his sentence was reduced, which he served in Mordovia and then was released. He moved to Moscow where he worked at distributing the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was arrested again in 1980, indicted on criminal charges based on Article 162, Part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, and sentenced to four years of confinement. (Volume 2 - 219) He served his sentence in Siberia felling timber. He preached while serving his sentence. He was released in 1983 and found work at a tram depot. He is still a member of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and serves as a congregation elder in Moscow near the Prazhskaya metro station. He conducts meetings, keeps order in the congregation, and preaches as much as his circumstances permit. From 180 to 220 people attend the meetings, children come with their parents. He fills out a preaching report, but he has no hour requirement. He has never worked at Bethel, but visited there once. His wife is also one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but his son is not. Yet, they have no problems with their son. He was a Catholic before he became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was rehabilitated for his first conviction. He has a medal for bravery, a Level II badge from the Great Patriotic War, and other awards. Jehovah’s Witnesses did not fight in the Second World War.
Certificate No. 3739-92 issued 13 October 1992, for the rehabilitation of S.V. Levitsky, based on Article 1 of the Law of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic “On the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression in Ukraine,” dated 17 April 1991, is available.-Volume 2 -218.
Y.P. Sivulsky testified that he is an elder of the Moscow Community, his parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses. His parents live in the Northern Caucasus, were repressed, and then rehabilitated. In 1987, because he refused to join the army, he was sentenced to eighteen- months imprisonment in Riga, where he lived at the time. Afterwards, he returned to his parents and was married in 1991. His wife was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and is one to this day. Before they were invited to Bethel in 1993, they lived with his wife’s mother in Kislovodsk. Now he works at Bethel on the Public Affairs Committee, where they speak with the press, go to conventions, and discuss problems. A 'No-Blood' card is filled out for a child with the consent of both parents.
The case materials show that participants of the sects “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” “True-Orthodox Christians,” “Innokentsi,” “Adventist-Reformists,” and their family members, who were sent to special settlements in accordance with the Order of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR, dated 11 March 1952, and by special orders of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, had their special settlement limitations removed and were released from under the administrative supervision of law enforcement agencies by the Order of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR, dated 30 September 1965.-Volume 2 - 269.
The above-mentioned witnesses were questioned during the court hearing in February and March 1999.
However, their testimonies do not give any real basis to conclude that the religious community deliberately incites religious discord, coerces to destroy the family, infringes on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens, inclines [others] to commit suicide and refuse medical care for religious reasons. The testimonies simply show the stand relatives take when a member of their family becomes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and it is unacceptable from the relatives' standpoint. In broken families, the parents who uphold traditional views have tried to use the different beliefs of their former mates as an argument in disagreements about raising children. But such an introduction to the parent’s religious views is not contrary to the interests of the children.
During the present court hearing, witnesses called by the prosecutor and the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses were also questioned.
S.V. Vasilyev, O.N. Marchenko, and Dubovinsky testified that they have been members of the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses for many years and are concerned that their organisation will be liquidated in Moscow. They talked about the organisation, its forms and its methods of operation.
A.A. Khanin, a 26-year-old member of the organisation, testified that he first became interested in God when his grandmother died. His father died when he was 19 years old and he began to attend church and read literature. He understood very little of what was said at church. For many years he played sports and associated with many people who wore crosses, but he knew that they were part of the criminal world. He also saw how many priests treated others disrespectfully. Later, he met Jehovah’s Witnesses and began to study the Bible. He was baptised in the summer of 1995. In February 1999, he was disfellowshipped for committing a serious sin-fornication. Eventually, within 14 months, he was reinstated back into the organisation.
A.M. Rasskazov testified that he does not work, he is part of the Church’s A.S. Khomyakov Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Non-Traditional Religions. He had associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He says that the magazines and books published by the organisation and the preaching work are more important to them than the Bible. The organisation’s aim is to separate members of their organisation from society, to instil in people fear of the end of the world, and to lure minor children into their organisation by means of conversations. He, an Orthodox churchgoer, goes to worship services once a week, reads prayers, studies the Bible, and church writings. A.M. Rasskazov confirmed that he had been at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Orthodox Church garb, in July 1998, where he was giving out pamphlets discussing the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses, stating that their teachings are not in line with the Bible.
V.A. Troitsky testified that he was in the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the period of 1992-1997. He believes the members of the organisation are deceived. The organisation discourages reading literature opposed to Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have a scornful attitude toward education. Their only education is in service to Jehovah. The organisation is opposed to other religions. He knows of cases when a husband categorically opposed his wife taking their child to the meetings, and so the wife took the child without her husband knowing. However, the witness did not give any solid facts to prove these circumstances. The witness showed that no one in the organisation is obliged to attend the meetings. There are six meetings a week, but attending them is optional-lectures, study. He was not disfellowshipped from the organisation; he left voluntarily.
T.Y. Panina testified that she was visited by members of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses at her home in 1998. They offered her a Bible study. She was sold an easy-to-use Bible. She was also given The Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Later on, she was invited to a meeting. Her children were six and nine years old. She would leave her children at home alone when she attended the meetings. Community members would tell her that the family can wait; she has to preach. She and her husband began to have problems in their marriage. She did not even care when her husband mentioned getting a divorce. This lasted for three months. Later, she and her husband went to Church after which she voluntarily left the organisation and discontinued going to the meetings. She considers the organisation to be Utopian. The organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses helped her to realise the importance of attending a Christian church.
A.Y. Kozlov testified that members of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to his home and offered a Bible study when he was 15 years old. In 1996, he was studying at college where a woman, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, worked as a cloakroom attendant. He began to miss classes and then stopped attending college altogether. He attended the meetings once a week in the city of Zelenograd, keeping it secret from his parents. Three years ago, his mother introduced him to Oleg Stinyaev. After his conversation with him, he realised that he was wrong and was shocked by that. He is presently an Orthodox churchgoer and has passed the affiliation ceremony. He did not understand the importance of education when he was 15 years old, but now he is studying at a different educational institution where he was enrolled in March 2000.
The aforementioned testimonies also do not give facts to prove that the religious community deliberately incites religious discord, coerces to destroy the family, infringes on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens, inclines [others] to commit suicide and refuse medical care for religious reasons.
M.I. Odintsov was questioned as a witness at the court hearing. He is the head of the Department for Religious and National Issues of the Apparatus of the Ombudsman of Human Rights in the Russian Federation, a doctor of historical science, a professor, and a member of the expert council assigned to carry out the state expert study on religious studies by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. He showed that the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses has existed in Russia for one hundred years. Throughout this time period, it has experienced and still experiences difficulties in realising its right to exist legally. He participated in the expert Council of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. They spent several sessions researching the literature and publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They requested a series of documents, which were presented by Jehovah’s Witnesses and other organisations. Included in the Council were sociologists, political scientists, historians, religious scientists, ethnographers, and lawyers. They came to the conclusion that this is a religious organisation. They did not find anything in their published literature inciting violations of law.
The testimonies of other witnesses who were questioned in February and March 1999, and witnesses questioned in the present court hearing, do not have any substantial meaning. Rather, they mainly reflect their viewpoint of the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They did not supply the court with any facts to support the application.
When submitting the application in April 1998, the prosecutor referred to the expert conclusions on the nature of the beliefs and practises of the religious organisation, “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” written by I.A. Galitska and I.V. Metlik, employees of the Institute of Personality Development in the Russian Academy of Education, a letter written by F.V. Kondratyev, doctor of medical sciences, and the expert conclusion of F.G. Ovsienko, doctor of philosophy and professor in the Department of Religious Studies of the Russian Academy of State Services in the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation, which were given during the investigation process of the criminal case brought for illegal activity on the part of the religious organisation, “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in Moscow. Evidently, from the materials of the civil case of 13 April 1998, a fourth order was issued to the investigators by the Department of Internal Affairs of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Northern Administrative District of Moscow, to terminate the criminal case brought for illegal activity on the part of the religious organisation “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in Moscow, due to a lack of corpus delicti.
However, F.G. Ovsienko’s expert conclusion was included in the criminal case materials (copy included in the civil case materials). It established that the literature of the religious organisation that was presented for the expert study contained the following: views and ideas that undermine respect for other religions, incite feelings of hostility toward them and citizens professing Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Buddhism, Islam, and other religions; these views and ideas incite religious enmity and discord, while the views preached by organisation members could cause definite negative actions against certain social groups, more specifically, the formation of a hostile attitude toward citizens not belonging to the organisation; incitement of discord and enmity toward individuals of another religion; mental abuse of believers involved in the community, especially young people; and the formation of an aggressive attitude toward those who lead a traditional and national way of life.
There is also available a copy of the expert conclusion compiled by N.S. Gordienko, doctor of philosophy and professor of the Department of Religious Studies in the Gertsen Russian State Pedagogical University. In his deductions, he established that the literature presented by the religious organisation does not contain views or ideas that incite religious enmity or discord. It does not propagate the belief that citizens are inferior because of their relationship to religion nor does it make illegal appeals directed at other religions and their representatives. The views preached by the religious organisation’s members rule out any immoral, illegal, and all the more so, violent actions against any social groups. The organisation’s publications and speeches do not contain appeals to battle with the existing political system. Copies of these conclusions are included in the civil case materials.
In taking into consideration these expert conclusions conducted as part of the criminal case, as well as the prosecutor’s motion, the court, on 12 March 1999, arranged for a combined expert study to be conducted by specialists in religious studies, linguistics, literature, and psychology, who were offered by the parties (three experts by the prosecutor, two experts by the religious community).
The following questions were put before the experts:
- Do the literature and documents of Jehovah’s Witnesses contain signs of (a) incitement to religious discord (undermining respect toward other religions and hostility toward them), (b) coercion to destroy the family, (c) infringements on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens?
- Is the text of the literature and documents of Jehovah’s Witnesses subject to the study of the form usually used in religion?
According to Article 74 of the Civil Procedural Code of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, if the experts come to a unified conclusion, they will all sign one conclusion. The experts who do not agree with the other experts will compile a separate conclusion.
In October 2000, four of the five experts presented a combined expert conclusion, this included: V.P. Belyanin, doctor of philosophy, professor of the Psycho-Linguistics Department at the Moscow State Linguistics University; M.M. Gromyko, doctor of historical sciences, professor and head research associate of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Science (RAS); D.A. Leontyev, doctor of psycho-linguistic sciences, associate-professor of the Psychology Faculty at the Lomonosov Moscow State University; S.A. Nebolsin, candidate of philological sciences, section head of Artistic Cooperation of the Department of Theory and Methodology of Literary and Artistic Studies.
Expert S.I. Ivanenko, religious scholar, candidate of philosophy, consultant to the Department of Social Politics of the Informational-Analytical Directorate of the Apparatus of the Federation Council, compiled a separate conclusion.
According to the reasoning of the combined expert conclusion of the four experts (consisting of 15 pages), the literature of the religious community does contain signs of inciting religious discord, such as undermining respect for and actively moulding a hostile attitude toward other religions (in particular, toward Christianity). The given literature does not contain direct coercion to destroy the family, but direct psychological pressure is exerted and suggested to be exerted in practise, resulting in the destruction of the family. The community’s literature and documents contain signs of infringement on the rights and the freedoms of citizens such as, the right to life and medical services, the right to rest, and the right to spend one’s time as one sees fit. For a number of significant reasons, the exposition of the text of the researched literature differs from what is usually used in a non-sectarian religion (in traditional religions).-Volume 3 - 2-17.
Expert S.I. Ivanenko, in his own conclusion (consisting of 139 pages), came to the opposite conclusions. The literature and documents of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not contain signs of inciting religious discord (undermining respect for and actively moulding a hostile attitude toward other religions), coercion to destroy the family, infringement on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens. The text of the literature and documents of Jehovah’s Witnesses subject to the research is an exposition usually used in religion.-Volume 3 - 18-153.
It should also be noted that only expert S.I. Ivanenko confirmed that he was able to observe how Jehovah’s Witnesses carry out their preaching work in different countries. This religious organisation does not pose a danger to society. He showed that the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not contain any deliberate incitement to religious discord, discrimination, hostility, or violence, in regard to the followers of other religions. The publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses discuss the truthfulness of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the falsehood of the teachings of other religions. Their publications do not contain signs of inciting religious discord (undermining respect for and actively moulding a hostile attitude toward other religions). Jehovah’s Witnesses, in their literature, note the significance of the principles of freedom of conscience, teaching members of their organisation to respect the religious beliefs of other people. They emphasise the unacceptableness of insulting the religious feelings of believers of other religions, including during their preaching work. The publications contain a theological polemic against the doctrines of other religions, which according to the opinion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, are not in line with Bible principles. Moreover, this polemic is not directed at the undermining of respect for and incitement of hostility toward the followers of other religions and specific religious organisations. The literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses expounds on Bible principles for family life, the training of children, and the resolving of problems between married couples. Jehovah’s Witnesses categorically oppose suicide and consider it very important to receive good quality medical care. The believers' refusal of blood transfusions is based on their understanding of the Bible and the Bible principle “to keep abstaining from blood.” This has nothing to do with refusing medical care for religious reasons. The research of the documents and literature of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not give any basis to accuse them of infringing on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens. The literature published by Jehovah’s Witnesses consists of comments on Bible texts, which appraise certain events from the standpoint of Bible principles as Jehovah’s Witnesses understand them. Therefore, the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses expounds on views typical of this religious organisation, which in one form or another, are presented in religious literature of various Christian, and mainly Protestant, confessions that accept the Bible as the authority. Each of these confessions has its own theological tradition of interpretation of Bible texts and prophecies. The circumstance under which Bible literature (publications devoted to explaining and commentating on certain Bible texts) is being discussed in the set of quotations from the literature and documents of Jehovah’s Witnesses presented by the prosecutor, is being ignored. As a result, the indicated set of quotations significantly distorts the real meaning of the excerpts taken from the publications and documents of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which are included by the prosecutor in the set of quotations. The quotations referred to by the prosecutor in her application, in their complete form, are actually commentaries on certain Bible texts. Expert S.I. Ivanenko, in Addendum No. 2 of his conclusion, gives a detailed comparison of the prosecutor’s set of quotations from the literature and documents of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the corresponding places in the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses.-Volume 3 - 83-153.
During the court hearing, the four experts stated that the “linguistic, psycho-linguistic, and literary analysis of the texts of the society of Jehovah’s Witnesses, allows one to consider their informative, ideological-didactic, disciplinary-authoritative, and suggestive-motivational aspects, as an intentional and systematic instilling of a distinct and uniform composition of dispositions and predispositions.” They did note the instructiveness of the texts of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The predominate theme throughout the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the destruction of unfaithful people by the will and power of Jehovah and the exclusive salvation of those who, thanks to their becoming members of the organisation, will avoid harsh calamities, torments, and death. This creates a disposition and ominous shades which are intensified by numerous descriptions of human calamities - past, present, and future. It directs the reader’s awareness toward an almost hypnotic stupor before a fatal series of events. It prepares the consciousness for activity in a catastrophic-military, siege-like, disciplinary-organisational mode of opposition and attack.
However, not one of the experts, including expert L.A. Leontyev (psychologist), could explain to the court on the basis of what objective information or research they came to this conclusion regarding the influence of the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses on people’s perception.
Further, the experts came to the conclusion that the emotional-semantic dominant idea of the texts of Jehovah’s Witnesses is intensified by the “mournful” and “dark” disposition of the vocabulary. With help from the expert psycho-linguistic computer program VAAL, the automatic miscalculation showed that only 22% of the text is made up of “bright” lexis. Yet, 22% is made up of “mournful” and “dark” lexis, which is considered to be of critical magnitude, making the context of all printed material of Jehovah’s Witnesses depressing, instilling the idea that the world is an inhuman system of things, causing anxiety, fear, suspicion, and animosity. As a whole, the perception of the texts of Jehovah’s Witnesses form in the reader feelings of helplessly and passively being in expectation of instructions for salvation and willingness to nervously and excitedly see the world and people as their notorious enemies disposed to aggressive and resentful opposition against them.
However, the experts failed to indicate the research methods they used to appraise the texts of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the court hearing, expert V.P. Belyanin stated that he did not conduct a comparative analysis and that it is his impression. Further, he explained that while defining the correlation between “dark” and “bright” lexis, the remaining 56% of the texts of Jehovah’s Witnesses can be considered as normal perception without any deviations. But, the given conclusion is simply based on the studied literature of the religious community. Their perception of the actual influence of the texts of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the activists of the society of Jehovah’s Witnesses, involved in the society of Jehovah’s Witnesses and individuals subject to involvement in this society, was not collaborated by any research. The indicated group of individuals is mentioned by the experts in the conclusion. (Volume 3 - 4) The experts confirmed that they did not investigate anyone belonging to the indicated group.
Expert S.A. Nebolsin affirmed that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not incite others to go to war, but they do blame Christianity for the many lives lost as a result of wars. The texts of the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not contain direct coercion to destroy the family, but, in the case materials, he did see the following facts indirectly pointing to this: if a child leaves the family and there is a conflict with the father and mother, that will lead to the destruction of the family.
The experts did not present the court with any actual facts to back up their conclusion regarding the “hypnotic stupor before a fatal series of events.” The experts claim that the style of the text in the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses is full of elements of imperative, commanding nuances. This, in turn, supports the characteristics of an organisation gravitating toward a military-disciplinary type of an association of participants indicated by service regulations, official instructions, orders, commands, and so forth.
Expert M.M. Gromyko also showed that the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, having financial resources and buildings, is more like a party where a clear organisational structure operates, and following the instructions from the organisation’s leaders is mandatory for all members. The strictest control is exercised over the members of the organisation, which is a sign of totalitarianism.
However, the given circumstances cannot serve as a basis to satisfy the prosecutor’s application. It is simply the experts' appraisal of this particular religious organisation and it is not supported by any actual facts showing incitement of religious discord, infringement on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens, and so forth.
Consequently, in appraising the conclusion of the four experts and taking into consideration expert S.I. Ivanenko’s separate conclusion, the court, not having established actual facts that could have supported the prosecutor’s application, cannot make the given conclusion the basis for its decision.
The case materials show that the Russian Federation State Committee for the Press, in accordance with letter dated 24 July 1996, No. 11-5002-5705/69, permits distribution of the religious literature that has been the subject of research. According to this document (Permit), the State Committee, on the basis of the plenary powers presented by Article 54 of the Law of the Russian Federation “On Mass Media,” permitted distribution of The Watchtower and Awake! magazines in the territory of Russia. (Volume 2 - 240) Additionally, the State Committee for the Press of the Russian Federation, in its certificate dated 22 February 1999, No. 07-1531-1628/68, confirms that the books (attachment, 75 items, advertisement absent), imported into the territory of the Russian Federation, amounting to 6,920 tons, relates to the sphere of education, science, and culture. The indicated publications can enjoy the privileges according to the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation, dated 6 July 1994, No. 795 “On the Accession of the Russian Federation to the Agreement on Importation of Materials of an Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Nature and its Protocol.”-Volume 2-533.
When submitting the application, the prosecutor claimed that the fact that community members actively and jointly profess and disseminate their faith at worship services, by preaching and teaching their religion to their followers, which takes up a lot of time in violation of the regulations of the Labour Code of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, gives evidence of the illegal activity of the community. However, the court did not establish these circumstances, and actual facts were not presented, as indicated by the testimonies of the witnesses questioned. Additionally, according to Article 6, Part 1 of the Federal Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations,” this activity is common to every religious association. This activity is also mentioned in the community’s Charter. The witnesses' testimonies established that Jehovah’s Witnesses conduct three gatherings per week, during which five meetings are held. This takes up a total of four-and-a-half hours per week. Meeting attendance is voluntary. Moreover, every individual community member decides for himself how much time he will preach, depending on his personal and family circumstances.
During the court hearing, the prosecutor claimed that evidence for this case includes the decision of the Khoroshevsky Intermunicipal Court of Moscow, dated 21 May 1997. However, this decision was issued according to the claim of the Public Committee for the Protection of Conscience, L.S. Levinson, M.S. Osadchev, and others, against A.L. Dvorkin, the Department of Religious Education and Catechisation of the Moscow Patriarch for the Defence of Honour, Dignity, and Business Reputation, and the Refutation of Defamatory Information. The claim was denied. The subject under consideration was a brochure published in 1995, written by A.L. Dvorkin.-Volume 2 -235-239.
In considering the prosecutor’s application regarding the community inciting religious discord, it should be noted that the Constitution of the Russian Federation (Article 13, Part 5) and the Federal Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations” (Article 14, Part 2), do not give a definition of this concept. Yet, in Article 20 of the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, it is defined as speaking out for the benefit of religious hate, as instigation of discrimination, hostility, and violence. However, no such facts in regard to the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow were established by the court.
The statement that the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses coerces to destroy the family, is not collaborated by any objective facts.
The copies of the conclusions of the forensic-psychiatric expert studies for the criminal case involving V.V. Pridannikova (Republic of Kareliya), and the civil case to declare L.Y. Ilina (Saint Petersburg) incompetent, presented by the prosecutor, cannot serve as evidence for this case, since the prosecutor of the Northern Administrative District of Moscow issued an application to liquidate the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow.-Volume 2 - 281-285.
Also, the conclusion of the forensic-medical expert study from March 1996, involving O.I. Lebedeva, charged according to Articles 15 and 103 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, cannot serve as a basis to satisfy the application. The conclusion states that she was involved with various religious sects, Hare Krishna and Baptists, and actively associated with them. Since 1990, she and her husband began to attend the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where she learned that there will be atonement for sins in the near future and that her children will die. She again began to hear “a voice” in the middle of the night, had hallucinations, and absurd religious ideas. It was established that she suffers from a chronic mental illness called schizophrenia. The act does not mention any unlawful, deliberate actions on the part of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its members, as established by law.-Volume 2 - 261-268.
When mentioning that the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses inclines others to commit suicide or to refuse medical care for religious reasons, the prosecutor referred to the 'No-Blood' card carried on the person of the members of the organisation and to incidents when a blood transfusion was refused. According to the prosecutor’s opinion, this is proven by the fact that a blood transfusion was refused in the Moscow Hospital No. 40 by P.V. Semitko, who was diagnosed with a serious form of leukemia. Neither party disputed the given fact that the adult member of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, P.V. Semitko, refused a blood transfusion of his own will in February 1996. However, the treatment that he received with the use of a blood transfusion was at the request of his mother. In this case, the court did not establish the fact that members of the organisation inclined P.V. Semitko to commit suicide or to refuse medical care.
It should also be noted that based on Articles 30 and 33 of the Law of the Russian Federation “On the Fundamentals of Legislation of the Russian Federation on the Protection of Citizens' Health,” a citizen and his legal representative have the right to refuse medical intervention or demand its suspension. The only exception is for cases considered by Article 34 of the current Fundamentals where there is an exhaustive list of legal bases for rendering medical care without a citizen’s consent. In case of refusal of medical intervention, the possible consequences should be explained to the citizen or his legal representative in a manner understandable to him. Refusal of medical intervention with the indication of possible consequences is recorded in a medical document and signed by either the citizen or his legal representative and the medical worker.
The court did not establish any facts proving that the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its members inclined anybody to commit suicide or to refuse medical care for individuals who are in a life- or health-threatening condition for religious reasons.
While discussing the issue of members of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to serve in the army, it should be noted that based on Article 59, Part 3 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, a citizen of the Russian Federation has the right to alternative civil service if the performance of military service contradicts his convictions or religion, as well as other cases established by federal law. The legality of such a refusal is confirmed by decisions of higher judicial instances of Russia in cases involving members of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which were reviewed at the court hearing.
A copy of the order of the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation dated 13 March 1996, denying the protest of the deputy general prosecutor of the Russian Federation in the case involving O.A. Mikhailov is available. He is a member of the religious organisation, “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and considered that performing military service contradicted his religion and religious convictions. He was acquitted due to a lack of corpus delicti in his actions. The order quoted Article 59, Part 3 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and concluded that the courts were correctly guided by this Law and validly declared that Mikhailov’s actions lack corpus delicti.-Volume 2 - 259-260.
The court did not establish facts proving that the members of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow refuse to perform alternative civil service.
When stating that the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses grossly violates the provisions of the Constitution and laws of the Russian Federation, the prosecutor referred to the involvement of teenagers and minors. Based on Article 3, Part 5 of the Law of the Russian Federation “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations,” it is forbidden to lure minor children into religious associations, as well as to teach minors a religion against their will and without the consent of their parents or guardians. Based on Article 4, Part 2 of this Law in accordance with the constitutional principle of separating religious associations from the state, the state does not interfere in the definition of a citizen’s attitude toward religion or religious membership or in the upbringing of children by their parents or guardians in accordance with one’s own convictions and taking into consideration the child’s right to freedom of conscience and creed.
As the Charter of the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow shows, members of the community are believers of legal age, who “became Jehovah’s Witnesses by their voluntary dedication to God and subsequent water baptism.” The body of elders admits members into the community, based on the believer’s verbal statement.-Volume 1 - 11.
By means of the witnesses' testimonies and explanations of the defendant’s representatives, the court established that children are with their parents at the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and when they preach publicly and from house-to-house. However, the court did not establish facts of active illegal luring of minors into the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The prosecutor, in stating that the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses interferes with a family’s personal life, claimed that the organisation dictates with whom believers can associate, from whom they must keep separate, how much time they should spend weekly in the house-to-house preaching work, and how much literature to distribute. This, in turn, requires that the actions and thoughts of members of the organisation be in subjection to the arrangements of the organisation. Moreover, the prosecutor referred to the necessity for every publisher to give a personal report by filling out special record cards concerning their house-to-house service, and teaching and preaching reports. This does not leave time for believers to fulfil their family obligations, to have combined family rest and association, to train their children, and self-improvement. However, the court did not establish facts to prove that the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow (or its members) infringe on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens.
Also in the application, the prosecutor claimed that the family suffers financially because of the regular donations made by believers to support the activity of the organisation. Such facts were also not established by the court. Donations are made voluntarily, which is secured by Part 5.1 of the community’s Charter.
Also in the application, the prosecutor claimed that the views of the members of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses could result in specific negative actions directed against certain social groups and an especially destructive influence on those families whose individual members are influenced by the religious organisation. However, this statement is unsubstantiated and was not verified in the court hearing. Facts of deliberate incitement to religious discord, discrimination, hostility, or violence, coercion to destroy the family, infringement on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens, in regard to certain social groups, were not presented by the prosecutor nor established by the court.
The prosecutor’s application claims that the rights of the members of the organisation to fully-paid, free labour are infringed upon since it is recommended to choose part-time work in order to fulfil the hour-requirement for preaching. The service at Bethel (Saint Petersburg) includes gratuitous physical labour and overtime, for which the workers are given a modest place to live, food, and a meagre allowance for travel expenses. The court also did not establish a violation of the rights and the freedoms of citizens in this regard. As shown by the case materials and uncontested by the community’s representatives, members of the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who work and live at Bethel, do not sign labour contracts and they live at the complete expense of the organisation. However, the court did not establish facts of violation of legislation under these circumstances, nor have any of the members of the organisation filed suit in court to resolve a dispute regarding violation of his rights and freedoms.
The fact that members of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to celebrate holidays, honour state symbols, or vote in elections, cannot serve as a basis to ban the organisation since their doing so is not in violation of the Constitution of the Russian Federation or International Agreements.
The prosecutor’s arguments that the religious community will not divulge all information about itself, do not serve as a basis to satisfy the application. The prosecutor’s arguments that the religious community exerts psychological influence are also unsubstantiated.
On 29 April 1999, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation registered the “Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia” and its charter and issued a certificate of state registration of the religious organisation located at: Saint Petersburg, Solnechnoye, 6 Srednyaya Street.
The Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses filed an application for re-registration with the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation in October 1998. Prior to deciding the issue of registration, a state expert study based on religious studies was conducted in the Expert Council for carrying out a state expert study on religious studies under the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, formed in pursuance of the order of the Government of the Russian Federation, dated 3 June 1998, No. 565 “On the Procedure for the Carrying Out of State Expert Religious Studies.”-Volume 2 - 401-405.
According to the conclusion of this Expert Council, dated 15 April 1999, the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a religious organisation. The religious documents and literature of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses available to the public, do not contain incitement to a forced change of the fundamentals of the constitutional order or to violation of the integrity of the Russian Federation. Nor do they incite to violence, social, racial, national, or religious discord, to refuse to fulfil legally established civic obligations, or to the committing of other illegal actions. The religious documents and literature of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses available to the public, do not contain a basis for the claim that the limitations and prohibitions dictated by the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses threaten the psychological health and morality of participants and followers of the given organisation. Generally speaking, the practise of the indicated organisation does not differ principally from the activity of many other traditional and new religious organisations. The conclusion notes that the absolute prohibition on blood transfusions, existing in the dogma and corresponding practise, along with a number of cases, can, and according to medical statistics, does threaten the individual and physical health of a person. According to international legal requirements, the regulations of a dogma cannot be the only basis for withholding legal status from a religious organisation. Only a committed action can serve as such a basis. In this regard, the organisation’s absolute dogmatic requirement that all its members refuse blood transfusions does not in itself contradict the legislation of the Russian Federation, since it is in line with the personal will of every member of the given organisation. The documents and literature of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses available to the public do not contain a basis for the claim that the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including the practised forms and methods for dissemination of their faith, is in violation of the rights of other citizens. The information outlined in the documents and materials presented by the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses generally corresponds to the literature available to the public and distributed by the indicated organisation for its members in society.
The certificate presented showed that during the period of 1998-2000, more than 350 religious organisations were registered (re-registered) in Russia, which make up the structure of the Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses.-Volume 3 - 181-197.
Taking into consideration what has been outlined, the court came to the conclusion that there is no basis for the liquidation and banning of the activity of the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow, since it has not been established that this community in Moscow violates the Constitution of the Russian Federation or laws of the Russian Federation, incites religious discord, coerces to destroy the family, infringes on the individual, the rights, and the freedoms of citizens, inclines [others] to commit suicide or to refuse medical care for individuals who are in a life- or health-threatening condition for religious reasons.
In resolving the question of covering the expenses for the conducted composite expert study, the experts' certificates to cover each of their costs amounting to 19,377.50 rubles, should be accepted. But, considering that four of the experts, without agreement or request to the court, independently raised an additional question for themselves, the court considers it possible to exact the expenses amounting to 16,000 rubles for each expert.
On the basis of the aforementioned, the court, guided by Articles 191 and 197 of the Civil Procedural Code of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic,
To deny the application of the Prosecutor of the Northern Administrative District of Moscow to liquidate the Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Moscow and ban its activity.
To obligate the prosecutor of the Northern Administrative District of Moscow to pay experts Dmirtry Alekseyevich Leontyev, Sergei Igorevich Ivanenko, Valeri Pavlovich Belyanin, Marina Mikhailovna Gromyko, and Sergei Andreyevich Nebolsin for the expenses amounting to 16,000 rubles each.
The decision can be appealed to the Moscow City Court within 10 days.