RUSSIA: Supreme Court Outlaws the Jehovah’s Witnesses
USCIRF Condemns Russian Supreme Court Decision Banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is disappointed, but not surprised, at the recent Russian Supreme Court decision to ban the Jehovah’s Witnesses from operating anywhere in the country. USCIRF Chair, Thomas J. Reese, S.J., commented that “The court’s decision sadly reconfirms the disregard of the government for religious freedom in present-day Russia. Individual and community expressions of faith, and even private religious beliefs, are not safe from state-sponsored repression and coercion in Russia today.”
Russian Justice Ministry attorney Svetlana Borisova reportedly said in court that the Jehovah’s Witnesses “pose a threat to the rights of citizens, public order and public security.” USCIRF Chair Reese dismissed this statement as “simply a politicized assault on a religious group known worldwide for its pacifism and avoidance of politics.”
USCIRF firmly believes that a stable, prosperous, and tolerant Russia is in the world’s interest. Yesterday’s ruling, however, can only lead to the impression that Russia is isolating itself from other advanced nations. USCIRF Chair Reese went on to say that “The Russian government’s premeditated attack demonstrates that it does not consider itself bound by internationally recognized norms or conventions. With this decision, the Russian government takes another unnecessary step away from the international community and toward isolation.”
Should the Jehovah’s Witnesses choose to appeal this decision, USCIRF urges the Russian court system to overturn this unjustified ruling.