KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00 30 November 2000
I. RUSSIA: MOSCOW SALVATION ARMY RISKS CLOSURE
Two years after it first applied for re-registration, the Moscow Corps of the
Salvation Army has lost a second court battle to overturn the rejection of its
application, and now risks closure. The deadline for re-registration is 31
II. POLAND: POLICE DEFEND `ANTI-SECT' UNITS AGAINST ADVENTIST
New units set up to monitor new religious movements are being trained to deal
with criminal activities by sects, say the police. Adventist church leaders have
expressed concern that 'anti-sect' training material gives a distorted picture of
minority religious groups and could lead to discrimination against them.
RUSSIA: MOSCOW SALVATION ARMY RISKS CLOSURE
by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service
Exactly two years after it first applied for re-registration, the Moscow Corps of
the Salvation Army has lost a second court battle to overturn the rejection of its
application. The Salvation Army now risks being closed down in the Russian
capital. Since the deadline for re-registration of religious organisations runs out
in a month, the Moscow Corps' only hope of staving off official closure is if the
Salvation Army manages to gain registration as a centralised religious
organisation by the 31 December deadline.
On 28 November the Moscow City Court rejected the Moscow Corps' appeal
against the decision of the Presnenski district court of Moscow. Having been
refused re-registration by the Moscow City Department of Justice, the Moscow
Corps appealed to the Presnenski district court. However, the court confirmed
the refusal on the grounds that the Salvation Army is a `militarised'
organisation subordinated to a foreign central body.
Colonel Kenneth Baillie, the head of the Salvation Army in Russia and the
CIS, told Keston News Service that he was concerned that two Russian courts
had made decisions based not on the law but on the reasoning of ill-disposed
The Salvation Army was registered in Moscow in 1992 and, as required by the
1997 amendments to the religion law, submitted documents for re-registration
in November 1998. The Moscow City Department of Justice demanded
amendments to the application and additional documentation, which dragged
out the application until February 1999. Then the process stalled, since,
according to the deputy head of the Moscow Department of Justice V.
Zhbankov, religious affairs experts were examining the documents. On 16
August 1999 re-registration was officially refused.
The co-director of the Moscow-based Slavic Centre for Law and Justice,
Vladimir Ryakhovsky, who represented the church this week in court, told
Keston on 21 November that the Moscow Corps was refused re-registration on
formal grounds (lack of clarity in the Statute and minutes). Another reason
given was that since it is subordinated to a foreign central body it cannot be re-
registered as a religious organisation but can exist only as the representative
office of a foreign religious organisation. However, this contradicts last April's
ruling of the Constitutional Court relating to the Jesuit order (see KNS 26 May
During hearings at the Presnenski district court, the court did not examine the
essence of the case and ruled that the refusal of re-registration was in
accordance with the law. As well as the grounds cited in the original refusal the
Presnenski court included in its ruling the explanations submitted to the court
by the Moscow Department of Justice, in particular that the Salvation Army is
a militarised organisation subordinated to a foreign central body. The Moscow
City Court also failed to examine the essence of the case and simply refused the
Moscow Corps' appeal.
In the European part of Russia there are 14 corps of the Salvation Army, of
which five have been registered under the 1997 law. At present the registration
of a central organisation of the Salvation Army on the basis of three local
organisations is being considered by the Justice Ministry. If a central
organisation is registered, this will solve the problem of the registration of all
the other local congregations, including the Moscow corps.
The department for the registration of religious organisations at the Ministry of
Justice told Keston on 30 November that a meeting of the committee of experts
on 28 November had considered the Salvation Army's application. An expert
ruling was being prepared and a decision would be taken by the end of
The Salvation Army is not the only organisation established by a foreign
religious organisation to have encountered problems in Moscow. The Church
of Christ has also been refused re-registration and it too is submitting an appeal
to the courts. The court action in the Golovinski district court seeking to close
the Moscow congregation of the Jehovah's Witnesses has already lasted several
years. The next court session - after an adjournment of eight months - is to take
place on 6 December.
In response to Keston's written request for information on progress in re-
registering religious organisations in Moscow, the deputy head of the Moscow
City Main Department of the Ministry of Justice replied on 10 November that
`the Federal Law on freedom of conscience and religious organisations does
not require registering bodies to provide information about religious
organisations which have been re-registered or which have not succeeded in re-
POLAND: POLICE DEFEND `ANTI-SECT' UNITS AGAINST ADVENTIST
by Jonathan Luxmoore, Keston News Service
A senior Warsaw police officer has defended the establishment of police units
to monitor new religious movements in the wake of complaints from the
Adventist leadership, which said a police campaign would worsen
discrimination against religious minorities. The units were set up at the
recommendation of the government's Inter-Ministerial Team for New Religious
Movements. Pawel Biedziak, chief spokesman for Warsaw's main police HQ,
admitted to Keston News Service that the police had obtained training material
from Catholic groups, but denied they were acting under pressure from the
predominant Catholic church. `This is a complex and sensitive area, and we
mustn't pursue people simply because they don't belong to the majority,' he
declared. `But we can't ignore the signals coming to us either. We more often
hear criticisms that we're being too careful than that we're staging an offensive
against minority groups.'
Biedziak said 2-3 officers from each county were being instructed on the legal,
psychological and religious aspects of `sect' activities at the main police
training centre in Legionowo, outside Warsaw, and would be `kept trained and
well-informed' about new religious movements. However, training was
`predominantly directed' against criminal activities by religious groups,
including the recruitment and detention of minors. `Such groups differ from
typical criminal gangs, so we need to train police to deal with them. But we are
interested in religious groups only if they are planning or committing criminal
acts - not in their worldview or moral position.'
At a 13 October Warsaw meeting with Poland's police chief, General Jan
Michna, leaders of the 9000-strong Adventist church expressed alarm that the
scheme used material from Catholic `anti-sect' centres which `distorted reality'
about religious minorities. Adventist secretary-general, Pastor Andrzej
Sicinski, told Keston the aim of the `courtesy meeting' had been to urge caution
when `the label of sects is used by state institutions'. He had asked General
Michna to ensure that `protection of some individuals doesn't violate the rights
of others. He assured us he will safeguard the constitutional right to freedom of
conscience, and ensure the police respect religious
associations that respect the law.'
The Adventists, whose church is one of 15 Christian denominations recognised
under special laws, said Catholic centres were also giving `sect training
sessions' to school directors and teachers with Education Ministry backing. An
Adventist pastor had been barred from schools in the south-eastern city of
Zamosc after his church was labelled a `threatening sect' in a Ministry
Besides 15 recognised Christian denominations, a further 139 religious
associations are registered with church rights. However, religious minorities
frequently complain of pressure from the Catholic church, which nominally
comprises at least 95% of the country's 39 million citizens.
The Inter-Ministerial Team, set up in 1998, called on state institutions in a June
report to train personnel in how to deal with sects and announced plans for a
new department in the Interior Ministry's Public Order section to co-ordinate
administrative and legislative measures in co-operation with non-governmental
organisations (see KNS 6 July 2000). A Team official, Grzegorz Miklut,
denied to Keston that any training directive had been sent to the police, and
said reservations voiced by Adventists and other churches would be
`considered'. The report had been intended as a `form of education in the field
of sects', he said, adding that an `absolute distinction' had been drawn between
`sects' and `religious groups'. `It's difficult to measure the threat posed by sects,'
Miklut declared. `But the police follow orders from their commanders, not
from the Catholic church. Similarly, our Team comprises officials from six
ministries, none of whom are under church pressure.'
Sicinski disputes this, declaring that the report had confirmed that sects posed a
`negligible problem'. `The threat from sects is largely imaginary and there are
far more important dangers facing citizens.' Sicinski said Baptist and
Pentecostal churches had faced `similar pressures', despite also being
recognised under special laws. He believed there was `no basis' for the new
Interior Ministry department, and said it would have to `justify its existence' by
finding evidence against small religious groups.
Biedziak said police had taken action against several `typically destructive
sects' in the 1990s, but had resisted pressure for intervention from families of
members. `If adult citizens join a minority religious group which doesn't
commit crimes and isn't
destructive, this isn't a police matter,' he said. `You can easily cause harm to
minority groups which aren't destructive or criminal, but are culturally different
and more visible in this monolithic, unified Catholic society.' (END)
Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.