History Repeating Itself? – Russia’s Putin Signs Sharing Beliefs, “Extremism,” Punishments

Photo: Forum 18

By Victoria Arnold
Forum 18

President Putin has signed amendments imposing harsh restrictions on sharing beliefs, including where and who may share them, and increased “extremism” punishments, introduced with alleged “anti-terrorism” changes. There are widespread Russian protests against the suddenly-introduced changes, and may be a Constitutional Court challenge.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has signed into law legislation on so-called “missionary activity”, further restricting the public expression of freedom of religion and belief, including in the media and online, Forum 18 notes. The amendment – which has been rapidly introduced – caused widespread protests, but was signed on 6 July and the signing was made public at Moscow lunchtime on 7 July. It was published on the presidential website that day and comes into force on 20 July.

Lawyers working to protect the right to freedom of religion and belief are already preparing for an appeal to the Constitutional Court. At the same time, they are preparing advice to individuals and religious communities on how to abide by the terms of the Law. One Protestant leader, though, has warned that some of the restrictions “a good Christian cannot fulfil.”

Against international human rights obligations, the amendments to the Religion Law restrict those who can share beliefs to people with permission from members of state-registered religious groups and organisations. This excludes people from groups which have chosen to operate without state permission, such as certain Baptist congregations. The amendments also bar even informal sharing of beliefs, for example responding to questions or comments, by individuals acting on their own behalf.

The amendments also restrict the beliefs that can be shared, specifies a restricted list of places where beliefs may be shared, and explicitly bans any beliefs from being shared in residential buildings, or on another association’s property without permission. An allegedly “anti-terrorist” part of the amendments bars the conversion of residential property to religious use. Click here to continue reading.

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