KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 22 December 2000

In the wake of November�s court decision rejecting the Moscow Salvation
Army�s appeal against the denial of reregistration, a meals on wheels
programme it provided for the needy has become the first victim, cancelled by
the city�s social services department. The Moscow branch no longer knows
from week to week if the hotel where it holds worship services will allow it to
meet the following Sunday.

Until 4 January 2001, please use the following email addresses for urgent
Russia (including reregistration enquiries):

Central Asia (including threatened Turkmenistan Pentecostal church

Lawrence Uzzell, Keston Institute�s director:


by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

With just seven working days in Russia until the expiry of its legal status, the
Moscow branch of the Salvation Army is experiencing the beginning of the
shut-down of its programmes, while its religious services in the Russian capital
are threatened. Moscow city social services department has already terminated
the agreement under which the Salvation Army provided meals on wheels and
the programme has come to a halt, commanding officer Colonel Kenneth
Baillie told Keston News Service on 21 December. Baillie said no other
programmes have yet been affected.

The Moscow branch has also encountered problems renting premises. The
landlord from whom they rent office space has said that he will not renew the
contract after the end of the year and they must get out by then. The hotel where
they rent space for Sunday worship told them they can only rent week by week
and the landlord has not yet said if they can continue to rent into the New Year.
They are still meeting there for the moment. �In any given week we might not
be able to use the premises if he were instructed not to lease them to us,� Baillie
reported. �How can you run a church week by week?� Both landlords gave the
branch�s failure to gain reregistration as the reason for the changes.

On 28 November the Moscow branch lost a court battle to overturn the rejection
of its the reregistration application (see KNS 30 November 2000). Unless the
Salvation Army receives legal status as a centralised religious organisation in
Russia �very quickly�, explained Baillie, the Moscow branch will enter �legal
never-never land� on 1 January 2001: �On the one hand our 1992 registration
expires, on the other, we will still exist until the city decides to file for

The Salvation Army has successfully reregistered in five other Russian cities
with charters identical to that deemed unacceptable in Moscow. Three of these
branches - St Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don and Volgograd - make up the three
local religious organisations required for the Church�s application for the status
of centralised religious organisation. According to Baillie, however, this was
submitted only in September 2000, since �an awful lot of time and energy went
into getting those five cities�.

A response from the federal registering organ is only due, therefore, �no later
than late February�, Baillie told Keston, which could come too late for a newly-
formed centralised religious organisation to act as an umbrella to the Moscow
branch. A decision does not appear imminent, as the application has been
referred for expert analysis. �We have been asked whether we are Christians
and how we can prove it,� remarked Baillie. �You don�t get asked that in
London or New York every day.�

On 20 December head of department for reregistration of religious
organisations at the Ministry of Justice Viktor Korolyov sounded surprised
when Keston asked whether the Salvation Army had yet received the status of a
centralised religious organisation. They had not, he replied: �We are examining
their documentation in accordance with the law.�

Baillie told Keston that the federal religious experts have also queried the
Church�s military metaphor. Although the Moscow branch�s legal appeal
against the 16 August 1999 reregistration refusal challenged only the reasons
cited by the main Moscow municipal department of justice, said Baillie, the
Presnensky District Court which eventually dealt with the appeal �started
injecting other reasons for denial�. One of these was a constitutional provision
which prohibits the creation of �militaristic formations�.

Baillie does not feel that, after having two appeals denied in recent months, the
Moscow court system could provide a solution: �We feel poorly done-by by the
court system.� In its 5 July 2000 verdict, for example, Presnensky District Court
went beyond its legal remit of considering whether the reasons for rejection of
reregistration are lawful by judging the original 1992 registration of the
Moscow branch to be invalid: �in the light of which the demand that it be
reregistered should not be satisfied.�

Ultimately, however, Baillie does not believe the affair to be a legal matter, as
indicated by the fact that five other Russian cities have taken the opposite
decision about reregistration: �This has nothing to do with changing the
language in yet another clause or supplying yet another document. If it were,
they would have asked and we would have been happy to do so. It is about a
decision taken against us for reasons never made public.�

On 10 November assistant head of the main municipal department of justice
Vladimir Zhbankov wrote to Keston that the 1997 law on religion �does not
require the registering organ to divulge information concerning religious
organisations which have and have not been reregistered�. He was not available
for comment when Keston rang on 22 December.

Baillie has no idea why the Salvation Army has been refused reregistration in
Moscow. He referred to pressure from the authorities on the Church to register
as a charity rather than a religious organisation: �But first and foremost we are
Christians - we preach the gospel, using words if necessary.� The branch
intends to continue its fight for the legal right to function in Moscow. �We have
no intention of simply packing up and leaving. Our ministry is important and
people depend on it.� (END)

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