Issue 5, Article 2, 2 May 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.

Tuesday 2 May 2000

SUMMARY: The 10 unresolved court cases against Protestant and Jewish
religious organisations have been recalled due to the extension of the law on
religion�s reregistration deadline. The court refuses to reconsider the three
cases of liquidation already handed down, advising those churches to seek
registration as newly-formed religious organisations.

by Mikhail Zherebyatev, Keston News Service

After the amendment to the 1997 Law of the Russian Federation �On freedom
of conscience and religious associations� came into force on 30 March 2000,
extending the deadline for renewal of registration by religious associations, the
Voronezh Regional Department of Justice decided to recall from the courts
legal cases concerning the abolition of religious associations which had not
completed the process of re-registration by the end of 1999. At the end of
January 2000, the collegium of the Voronezh Regional Department of Justice,
on the basis of the law�s original stipulation that renewal of registration must
be completed by the deadline of 31 December 1999, sent notification to the
courts about the liquidation of 13 formerly registered organisations. These
included one Jewish congregation and one of the Evangelical Lutheran faith
(belonging to the Church of Ingria), five congregations and one mission of
Pentecostal Christians and four congregations and the regional administrative
centre of the Union of Evangelical Christians/Baptists.

VYACHESLAV KRYUCHKOV, head of the department for registration of
social and religious organisations attached to the Voronezh Regional
Department of Justice, told Keston that three organisations belonging to
different Pentecostal jurisdictions were closed down in the course of February
and March 2000 as part of this legal process. In two of these three cases - in
the Komintern District Court in the city of Voronezh and the Bobrov District
Court in Voronezh region - the court took its decision in the absence of
representatives of the religious organisations concerned. The non-appearance of
the leaders of these organisations in court when summoned allows Kryuchkov
to assume that � either the organisations have ceased to exist or their leaders
feel they have no need of legal status�. (According to Kryuchkov, apart from
the leaders of the four congregations and administrative centre of the Union of
Evangelical Christian Baptists, nobody from the other nine organisations
threatened with abolition has appeared at the Department of Justice since the
start of 2000).

The representative of the department in charge of registration considers that
the result of another court hearing, which closed down a congregation of
Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) in the village of Ertil, would
not prevent this organisation from registering as a newly-established
congregation. �Whether they�re re-registering or registering as a new
congregation, there�s no great difference�, commented the head of the sub-
department of the Voronezh Regional Department of Justice, �The documents
presented are the same, the only difference is in the form of words used in the

Earlier Judge SHAFAROSTOV, after examining the case of the Ertil
congregation, categorically rejected the possibility that the court might
reconsider its decision, on the basis of the legal principle that �a law cannot be
applied retrospectively�, and he announced this publicly to a number of local
journalists who had come to him seeking clarification. He considers that his
decision was based on the law as it stood at the time, even though it was altered
later. During a telephone conversation with Keston after the court hearing, a
representative of the congregation expressed a strong desire to register the

Meanwhile, Kryuchkov stated that all four congregations attached to the Union
of Evangelical Christians/Baptists, as well as their administrative centre, would
be re-registered. The court review, starting in mid-March, had been postponed
in accordance with oral instructions from the Ministry of Justice to the
Voronezh Regional Department. At the beginning of March, even before the
amendment had come into force, the Regional Department of Justice had
independently advised these Baptists, against whom there were legal cases in
the courts, to register their organisations as newly-established, while the court
hearings were still taking place. (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.