Unification News for June 2001

Russian Court Upholds Religious Rights

by Konstantin Krylov

A district court in the city of Nizhny Novgorod has sided with the local branch of the Unification Church in its lawsuit against the city Justice Department, which had refused to re-register the church according to the latest Russian law regulating religious activities. Attorney Galina Krylova represented the Unification Church.

Founded in South Korea by Rev. Moon, the church originally registered a local branch in Nizhny Novgorod in 1995. The 1997 Russian law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" required all existing religious organizations to re-register by January 1, 2001. The city Justice Department sought to liquidate this religious organization by sending it two warnings and refusing to re-register it in accordance with the new law. The administration of the Nizhny Novgorod Region issued a special press statement warning citizens against this "organization with a dubious reputation." The issue became especially heated after the Russian Orthodox Community with the support of the city administration held an inflammatory conference, "Totalitarian Sects as the Threat of the Twenty-first Century," last April. In the public statement adopted by the conference, the Unification Church was classified as "one of the most dangerous cults." All of this occurred despite the fact that the church had originally been registered by the federal Ministry of Justice in May 1992 and re-registered under the new law in December 2000.

Instead of re-registering the local branch, the city Justice Department involved itself in a denominational dispute, publicly criticizing the church. In support of the Justice Department's position, local religious experts advising the Justice Department referred to a document entitled "Public Appeal of the Catholic Bishops of Japan," allegedly proving the non-Christian nature of the Unificationist teachings. Exasperated by the recklessness of the authorities, the local congregation appealed to the court.

Having examined the case, the court upheld the church's complaint. Prior to the church's registration on the federal level, the Expert Council of the Russian Ministry of Justice examined the teachings and practices of the Unification Church and found them compliant with both Russian and international law. Taking this into consideration, the District Court of Nizhny Novgorod found both the warnings and the two rejections by the local Justice Department to be illegal.

The District Court of Nizhny Novgorod ordered the local Justice Department to re-register the Unification Church community.

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