Monday, March 8, 2010

Window on Eurasia: New Handbook to Help Russia’s Religious Groups Cope with Official Inspections

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 8 – Two Moscow religious rights groups have released a new book designed to help religious groups deal when they are subjected to inspection by Russian justice ministry officials and thus not suffer from the consequences of their own “legal illiteracy” -- or that of the officials involved, according to Moscow’s Slavic Legal Center.
The SLC and the journal “Religion and Law” last week announced the release of a new book by Anatoly Pchelintsev and Inna Zagrebina, “The Defense of the Rights of Religious Organizations During Inspections by Justice Organs” (in Russian; Moscow: Yurisprudentsiya, 2010) (
(This is the second book in a series devoted to promoting greater knowledge by religious organizations of their rights prepared by Pchelintsev, the vice president of the SLC and a professor of law at the Russian State Humanitarian University and Zagrebina, a researcher at the Moscow Institute of State and Law.)
Like the earlier volume which was devoted to the specific nature of records that religious organizations must maintain in order not to run afoul of the authorities, the new book not only provides a general discussion of the issue of government control of religious organizations through the registration process but also focuses on actual cases and questions.
Among these are questions like “can a religious organization be involved in entrepreneurial and charitable activities [and] do the justice organs have the right to demand during the course of checking a list of the members of the religious organization” being examined?
Those questions, which the authors say have come up in recent cases, provide a useful glimpse into the relations between the Russian government and religious believers of various kinds, but perhaps even more useful to those concerned about religious freedom in the Russian Federation are the materials contained in the new book’s appendices.
They include, among other things, the new administrative code of the Justice Ministry, information about the various subdivisions of that ministry involved with religious checking, and the forms these agencies use when they subject the activities of religious organizations to registration and re-registration.
In addition, the book reproduces “models of orders of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation,” “models of reports about the conduct of checking and also tables concerning the reporting of religious organizations and the responsibilities of religious organizations” in this process, the Slavic Legal Center says in announcing the new volume.
The authors, Pchelintsev and Zagrebina, say that they prepared the handbook now as a result of the appearance of the new administrative procedures code that the Russian justice ministry has released, a code that contains changes that many if not all religious organizations may be unaware of.
As the SLC points out, religious leaders aren’t the only ones who do not know what the rules are. Experience shows, the center’s leaders say, that “those who check communities of believers often commit violations of the laws and rules in their racing after formal indicators,” something that without such guidance as this book provides they usually got away with.

No comments: