Russia’s increasing challenge to religious liberty.
(Page 4 of 4)
Not every religion is disabled to the same degree. The Orthodox Church enjoys privileged status, which it has used against other faiths. In June the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) warned “that the de facto favored status of the Moscow Patriarchate Russian Orthodox Church results in difficulties for minority religious communities, particularly those officially deemed non-traditional.”
Moreover, the Orthodox Church recently used its preferential status to encourage a blasphemy prosecution against a contemporary art exhibition entitled “Forbidden Art” held at the Sakharov museum. The government is seeking a three year jail term for organizers, a haunting throwback to Soviet restrictions on contemporary art.
In June the USCIRF warned that “Many Russian officials also proclaim that certain religious and ethnic groups are alien to Russian culture and society, thereby contributing to a climate of intolerance. In general, the Russian government has failed to address consistently or effectively the severe and chronic problem of violent and sometimes lethal hate crimes and anti-Semitism. Numerous acts of vandalism against synagogues, churches, and mosques also go largely unpunished or are attributed to hooliganism.”
Obviously, Washington’s influence over Moscow’s internal policies is limited. Nevertheless, U.S. government officials, religious leaders, and human rights activists can offer the same simple message as the religious leaders who wrote the president: “The Russian Government should make good on Russian guarantees of freedom of religion and association for every individual and religious community, and it should honor its international human rights obligations and commitments.”
The Moscow authorities have demonstrated that they don’t care much what foreigners, or even most Russians, think. But the controversy could embarrass the Putin/Medvedev government, tarnishing the regime’s image. Since religious restrictions — in contrast to political repression — don’t strengthen Vladimir Putin’s hold on power, maybe even he would come to see the value of offering religious believers a little more space.
Mr. Bandow is a Senior Fellow in International Religious Persecution at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?