Russian Supreme Court decides in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kaliningrad
MOSCOW—On September 22, 2009, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation issued a decision protecting freedom of religion. It upheld an earlier ruling by the Kaliningrad Regional Court that denied an application to liquidate a Local Religious Organization (LRO) of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Regional Court also explained that it is fully legal for religious groups to hold religious services in state-owned buildings and that lease agreements do not have to be concluded in the name of a registered religious organization. Such a requirement would be in violation of Article 28 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom to individual citizens and does not limit it to only registered religious organizations.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Kaliningrad Regional Court’s dismissal of the Kaliningrad Region Ministry of Justice’s request for liquidation exonerated the Kaliningrad LRO of Jehovah’s Witnesses of alleged violations of Article 16 of the Federal Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations. The Supreme Court also confirmed that conducting religious services does not require any special permissions or agreements.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, however, continue to face what appears to be a coordinated attack both on their literature and on their peaceful worship, based on alleged violations of the Federal Law on Counteracting Extremist Activity.
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