.- The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned as an extremist group in a Thursday Supreme Court decision that observers feared signaled a further step back for religious liberty.
“For Jehovah’s Witnesses, this is going to be a frightening time,” Lorcan Price, ADF International legal counsel in Strasbourg, told CNA April 21.
“It effectively means that holding their beliefs and manifesting them is tantamount to a criminal act in Russia. They risk new levels of persecution by the Russian authorities.”
Price saw the move as continuing the reversal of positive trends in post-Soviet Russia.
“What we’re seeing really is the slide back into the type of attitude that characterized the worst of oppression in the 20th century by the Soviet regime in Russia,” he added. “It’s obviously very sad and disheartening to see that happening again.”
Russia’s Justice Ministry in March ordered that the Jehovah’s Witnesses denomination be liquidated and disbanded. Judges ordered the closure of the denomination’s Russian headquarters and almost 400 local chapters. The denomination’s property would also be seized.
The denomination’s lawyer, Viktor Zhenkov, said the group would appeal the court ruling upholding the order.
“We consider this decision an act of political repression that is impermissible in contemporary Russia,” Zhenkov told the New York Times.
Russia has duties under the European Court of Human Rights to protect freedom of worship and belief.
The Russian Orthodox Church is predominant in Russia, and some of its members have pushed to outlaw or curb the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, also holds the denomination under deep suspicion.
Read more at Catholic News Agency.