More Equal Than Others

by Andrew Stuttaford

This story from the Moscow Times is a partial reminder of why the recent protests in Russia targeted a Russian Orthodox cathedral. There was more (much more) to the choice of venue than simple shock value:

The right to worship is enshrined in the 1993 Constitution. But after a few heady post-Soviet years in which thousands of faiths sprang up and flourished across Russia, the Kremlin stepped in at the urging of the Russian Orthodox Church to “protect” the Russian people from “foreign sects.” A major blow was dealt to religious freedom with the passage of a 1997 law that described four faiths as “traditional” in Russia — Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism — and afforded them special privileges. Many of the other faiths were forced to meet tough requirements to register with the authorities.

Pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church has been blamed for the inability of some Protestant churches to fully legalize their buildings in Moscow and other parts of the country by registering them with the authorities. Why the Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church had been unable to register its building for more than a decade should be a question for the courts. But it was a city court that handed down the decision to destroy the church, and a lack of proper documents is no excuse for a midnight raid.

One wonders whether the Pentecostal believers will be allowed to sue City Hall, the police or the attackers for insulting their feelings. Isn’t it blasphemy or hooliganism motivated by religious hatred to raze and loot a church?

Tellingly, the Russian Orthodox Church didn’t have any problems securing 200 plots for new churches around Moscow recently…

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