KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 21 January 2002.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. RUSSIA: LOCAL AUTHORITIES RESTRICT GOSPEL
DRAMATISATION. The city administration in Novomoskovsk, Tula
region, has prohibited the screening of the Jesus film � a dramatisation of
Luke's Gospel - in municipal buildings, a local Presbyterian pastor,
Roman Uglev, informed Keston News Service on 15 January. The
decision revoked the permission earlier obtained by a coalition of five of
Novomoskovsk's Protestant churches to show the film early this month,
and came, according to Uglev, after pressure from a local Orthodox
priest. The portrayal of Christ in the film goes against Orthodox teaching,
another priest told Keston. Protestants in the city of Kirov have also
reported to Keston that they have had screenings of the Jesus film
restricted.

II. RUSSIA: SALVATION ARMY VICTIMS OF UNETHICAL
PRACTICE? The Salvation Army's serious predicament in Moscow
appears to be due at least in part to its refusal to use the services of a
particular law firm, Keston News Service has discovered. The state
official responsible for registration of religious organisations in the
Russian capital has recommended the use of the same law firm - of which
he used to be president - in a further two known cases. When one of the
religious organisations in question subsequently employed the services of
the law firm, Keston has learned, its protracted legal difficulties were
swiftly resolved.

I. RUSSIA: LOCAL AUTHORITIES RESTRICT GOSPEL
DRAMATISATION

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

The city administration in Novomoskovsk, Tula region (approximately
190 kilometres or 120 miles south of Moscow) has prohibited the
screening of a Gospel dramatisation in municipal buildings, Pastor
Roman Uglev of Last Days Presbyterian Church informed Keston News
Service on 15 January.

Approximately two months ago a coalition of five of Novomoskovsk's
Protestant churches - Pentecostal, Full Gospel, Seventh Day Adventist,
Charismatic and Baptist - obtained permission from the city
administration to show the film early this month, Uglev told Keston. The
churches then set about drawing up contractual agreements to screen the
Jesus Film � a dramatisation of Luke's Gospel - at ten locations in the
city.

Once the coalition had successfully made contracts with five premises � a
cinema, two cultural centres, a society for the blind and a science institute
- Novomoskovsk's mayor announced that screenings were prohibited in
premises belonging to the city, according to Uglev, and the outstanding
institutions "suddenly refused to make a contract with us."

Uglev, however, attributes this change of heart by proprietors to a local
Orthodox priest, who, once the screenings began to be advertised, "started
to deal with the city administration and the heads of the institutions we
had agreements with." Proprietors who nevertheless allowed the
screenings to continue, said Uglev, later told the churches that the priest
had tried "to convince them to cancel our meetings."

The Jesus Film was first shown on 15 January in those institutions with
which the church coalition had already completed contracts, Uglev told
Keston that day. Approximately 500 people attended, he said.

Giving what he stressed was his personal opinion to Keston on 15
January, the episcopal secretary of Tula Orthodox diocese, Fr Sergi
Ryazukhin, said that the Church usually protested against the Jesus Film,
"because we believe that a sinful person filled with passions cannot act
the role of Christ - it is an impertinence." The film, he said, thus
contradicted Orthodox dogma, which understood the portrayal of Christ
only in the iconographical tradition.

Fr Sergi claimed not to know about any direct appeal against the film
made by Orthodox clergy to Novomoskovsk administration. However, he
did maintain that the majority of the city's population was Orthodox - and
that church opinion was "taken note of" there.

Also contacted by Keston on 15 January, Yelena Semichastnova,
consultant to the Committee for Work with Territories and Social
Organisations attached to Novomoskovsk municipal administration,
stated merely that the Jesus Film was "being advertised and shown."
Although she confirmed that her department was responsible for dealing
with the situation, Semichastnova claimed not to know either whether the
Protestant churches had been able to show the film at all the locations
they had planned or if there had been any complaints against the
screenings.

Novomoskovsk Protestant churches are not alone in claiming to have
screenings of the Jesus Film restricted. According to a message received
by Keston from Pastor Aleksandr Vazhenin of Kirov Christian Centre,
permission to screen the film was recently refused at two locations in
Kirov city (approximately 880 kilometres or 550 miles from Moscow). A
15 January report by Volgainform news service states that on 12 January
Kirov cinemas received a telephone call "from above" recommending
them not to show the film - "the advertisements were even removed."
Whereas representative of Kirov's New Life Mission, Aleksei Oleinik,
believes the decision to be at the request of the local Orthodox diocese,
continues the report, the region's Department of Culture claims to have
received numerous complaints from individual Orthodox believers
protesting that the film contradicts church canons.

Contacted by Keston News Service on 15 January, a worker at Aviatek
House of Culture in Kirov said that a Protestant church was still renting
its premises and holding film screenings: "No one has complained - so
far," she remarked. (END)

II. RUSSIA: SALVATION ARMY VICTIMS OF UNETHICAL
PRACTICE?

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

The Salvation Army's serious predicament in Moscow appears to be due
at least in part to its refusal to use the services of a particular law firm,
Keston News Service has discovered. The state official responsible for
registration of religious organisations in the Russian capital has
recommended the use of the same law firm - of which he used to be
president - in a further two known cases. When one of the religious
organisations in question subsequently employed the services of the law
firm, Keston has learned, its protracted legal difficulties were swiftly
resolved.

By the postponed 31 December 2000 deadline for re-registration of
religious organisations throughout Russia, the Moscow branch of the
Salvation Army had had not only its re-registration application rejected,
but a court appeal against the reasons for rejection and a legal protest
against this appeal decision similarly turned down. Since the next step
was liquidation of the organisation, its commanding officer in the CIS,
Colonel Kenneth Baillie, told Keston on 1 November, he and four other
representatives of the organisation visited the official responsible for re-
registration of religious organisations at Moscow's Municipal Department
of Justice, Vladimir Zhbankov, on 31 January 2001 "to see if we could
negotiate a compromise solution."

Zhbankov, he said, raised the issue of the organisation's legal
representation and suggested that it use a more qualified legal firm.
According to Baillie, Zhbankov at first did not name a firm, "but I queried
him twice until he gave a clear answer - the Association of Legal
Education ('Assotsiatsiya Pravovogo Prosveshcheniya')." According to
Baillie, the Salvation Army did not follow up this recommendation,
however, "believing that we had employed competent counsel, and that
the 'recommendation' from Zhbankov was itself improper, or at least
suspect."

A year earlier, St Andrew's Anglican Parish in Moscow was in an
identical position. Having received a rejection in response to its second
re-registration application on 24 December, the parish submitted a third
just days before the original 31 December 1999 deadline. According to
Russia's religion law, Moscow's Municipal Department of Justice had one
month to consider it, and liquidation proceedings would follow if it was
not accepted.

On 23 January 2000 Fr Simon Stephens related to his congregation how
he and the British ambassador's deputy had had a meeting at the Justice
Department on 21 January, during which Vladimir Zhbankov had hinted
that a third rejection was likely. In response, he said, he had asked
Zhbankov to recommend a lawyer who could check through the parish's
application and correct any mistakes before a decision was reached. Fr
Stephens then announced that he had agreed to pay Zhbankov's suggested
lawyer 35,000 roubles (then approximately 900 pounds sterling or 1400
US dollars) for this service. Just a week later, on 28 January, St Andrew's
Anglican parish had its third re-registration application finally accepted.

On 29 November 2001 Fr Stephens told Keston that the law firm used by
the parish at Zhbankov's suggestion had been the Association of Legal
Education.


In a third case, the Jewish community at Moscow's Choral Synagogue �
which re-registered as a local religious organisation without difficulty �
last year attempted to transform itself into a centralised religious
organisation. Although some at the Ministry of Justice considered this
legally possible, the community's lawyer, Anna Satanovskaya, told
Keston on 10 December, Moscow's Municipal Department of Justice
rejected the proposal: "The rejection letter said that there were other
lawyers who would give legal advice, but no names were given." In a
subsequent discussion, however, said Satanovskaya, "Vladimir Zhbankov
told us that those who had written our charter were not sufficiently
qualified, and that the Association of Legal Education was created by him
especially to assist those given refusals in understanding what they had
done wrong." According to Satanovskaya, Zhbankov maintained that he
was no longer head of this law firm.

Satanovskaya told Keston that the community neither contacted nor used
the Association of Legal Education in any way, "as we have our own
lawyers."

When Keston contacted Moscow's Municipal Department of Justice on
several recent occasions, Vladimir Zhbankov was not available for
comment. Speaking to Keston News Service by telephone on 15 January
2002, however, the specialist in legal issues pertaining to religious
organisations at the Association of Legal Education, Oksana Pakhomova,
maintained that Zhbankov had been president of her firm only until he left
to work at the Justice Department some three years ago. Asked by Keston
what legal problems were usually encountered by religious organisations,
she maintained that there was "really only one - they are refused
registration or re-registration and go to unqualified lawyers who say that
they will sort it out, but they don't know the law.' (END)

Copyright (c) 2002 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.