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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Russian Security Forces Raid (Extremist) Church of Scientology

Free speech has never been a 'right' in Russia and that has led to many an atrocity.
But I can't help but wonder if it has not also led to some good.
Cracking down on Scientology, and Jehovah's Witnesses is a frightening thing to all religious people, and yet, both churches are off-track and Russian people are better off without them. Perhaps there is good and bad in everything.

By Ray Downs 

Police during a search of the premises by investigators at Scientology Church In Moscow last June.
Photo by Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

UPI -- The Russian Federal Security Bureau raided a Church of Scientology office in St. Petersburg, calling it an effort to uncover information about religious extremism.

"Searches are being conducted in connection to the criminal case concerning illegal entrepreneurship, incitement to hatred and the establishment of an extremist association," a source told the Russian news agency, TASS.

The raid comes about one year after the FSB raided several locations in St. Petersburg connected to the Church of Scientology due to allegations of "illegal business dealings."

The Russian government has previously ruled that, because it is not recognized as a religion, proselytizing is a form of money laundering.

I'll need help wrapping my head around that!!!?????

St Petersburg, Russia
I love this image with its beautiful display of pre-Soviet Russian splendour,
 alongside the drab, unimaginative structures of communism

The church, a controversial religious group founded in the United States that is derided by some as a cult, has long been at legal odds with the Russian government.

In 2015, a Moscow court ruled that the group cannot be considered a religion because its name is trademarked in the United States and prohibited it from engaging in its religious activities.

"When decisions like this are handed down, actually everyone loses, and this decision affects not only the Church of Scientology of Moscow. This decision is a sign of disease in the justice system," the group's Moscow branch said in a statement.

But the legal entanglements go back even further.

According to court documents from the International Center for Non-Profit Law, the Church of Scientology first opened its doors in Russia in 1994. But in 1998, the Moscow Justice Department required religious organizations to re-register with the government and refused to grant the Church of Scientology its religious organization status.

Since then, there has been a steady back and forth of legal pushes between the two entities and the Church of Scientology is now considered an "extremist" group by the Russian government.

One wonders how much the Russian Orthodox Church is behind Putin's war on western religions?

In April, Russia's Supreme Court outlawed Jehovah's Witnesses, declaring that an extremist organization and banned its 175,000 adherents from congregating on Russian territory.

Russia outlaws Jehovah's Witnesses as 'extremist'

Court ruling puts Christian denomination in same category as
Islamic State militants
By Mike Bambach  

Yaroslav Sivulsky, a member of the managerial center of the Jehovah's Witnesses, discusses Thursday's ruling by Russia's Supreme Court banning the Christian denomination. 
Photo by Dmitry Tischenko/www.jw-russia.org courtesy Human Rights Watch

April 20, 2017 (UPI) -- Russia's Supreme Court outlawed Jehovah's Witnesses on Thursday, putting the Christian denomination that rejects violence in the same category as Islamic State militants.

The court declared Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist organization and banned its 175,000 adherents from congregating on Russian territory.

Jehovah's Witnesses said it would appeal the decision.

The group's headquarters in St. Petersburg and 395 churches will become state property, according to the Tass news agency.

The Russian government filed suit on March 16 to outlaw the organization, which was already considered an extremist group in St. Petersburg.

Human Rights Watch criticized the decision as "a serious breach of Russia's obligations to respect and protect religious freedom."

"Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia are now given the heartrending choice of either abandoning their faith or facing punishment for practicing it," said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Russia's Justice Ministry said Jehovah's Witnesses "violate Russia's law on combating extremism" and their pamphlets incite hatred against other groups.

One can only hope that these actions are in preparation for a crack-down on Islamic extremism which is the real problem for Russia and the world.