European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom

Ordinary Anti-cultism book


Written the Friday, May 17th 2013 à 12:16
EIFRF




Sergey Ivanenko is a well-known Russian religious expert and doctor of philosophical sciences. He has studied religion professionally for more than 35 years. He compiled the first index in the country on religious organizations of the Russian Federation and has written 16 books and more than 140 articles on problems of religious studies. His work stands out as accurate, clear, and understandable.
Here are some extracts from his new book "Ordinary Anti Cultism"


Ordinary Anti-cultism book
Full book available here: 
http://books.google.co.in/books?id=Ij8pFWoiypkC&printsec=frontcover&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

One of the Primary Targets of Anti-cultists—Pentecostals

The Evangelical Christian religion (Pentecostals) is one of the main movements in modern Protestantism. The New Testament states that at the time of Pentecost, the holy spirit descended upon the apostles, “and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues.” (Acts 2:4) Pentecostals practice “speaking in tongues” during prayer services. This is their foremost distinction from other movements of Protestantism.

Pentecostals are divided into different denominations. Considering that from a religious scholarly point of view there are no major distinctions between Pentecostals and “neo-Pentecostals,” then anti-cultists are waging war against one of the largest and fastest growing movements of modern Protestantism.

Bishop Sergey Ryakhovskiy is one of the leaders of Russian Pentecostals and chairman of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians (approximately 1,000 unregistered religious groups and more than 1,350 communities registered by the Federal Registration Agency, which makes up around 6 percent of all the registered religious organizations in the Russian Federation). He is the object of constant, malicious, and personal criticism from A. Dvorkin and other anti-cultists.

Sergey Ryakhovskiy is a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, the co-chairman of the Advisory Board of Protestant Church Leaders in Russia, and a member of the Council on Interaction With Religious Associations. He has state and departmental awards, including “The Order for Merit to the Fatherland” of second degree, the medal, “In Commemoration of the 850th Anniversary of Moscow,” and the medal, “In Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.”[1]

Like the majority of Christian Pentecostals, and, for that matter, Russian Protestants in general, Bishop Sergey Ryakhovskiy is patriotic and takes a balanced and conservative position on moral issues, supporting traditional family values. Hysterical and even manic attacks on Sergey Ryakhovskiy by the St. Irenaeus of Lyon Center for Religious Studies are due to the personal hatred of anti-cultists and aggressive rejection of Pentecostals.

An achievement of the anti-cultists in their fight with Pentecostals was the decision to dissolve one of the largest communities of over 1,000 members––the local religious organization the Church of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals) “Blagodat” of the city of Khabarovsk—and ban its activity in the Khabarovsk Territory, rendered by the Khabarovsk Territorial Court on 27 April 2011 regarding the claim of the Prosecutor for the Khabarovsk Territory. The most significant statement in the decision was the assertion that the characteristics of the religious practice of Pentecostals, including “speaking in tongues,” harm the health of citizens. If this decision entered into legal force, it could be used against all Christian Pentecostals.

The “Blagodat” Church appealed the decision of the Khabarovsk Territorial Court to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which declared it as unlawful on 5 July 2011 and sent the case to the Khabarovsk Territorial Court for retrial.

The retrial took place from 15–19 December 2011 in the Khabarovsk Territorial Court. The court denied the prosecutor’s claim. However, the prosecutor’s office appealed this decision. Moreover, the Khabarovsk Territorial Prosecutor’s Office continues to investigate the criminal case against the “Blagodat” Church as an organization that harms the mental health of citizens.

According to the Guild of Experts on Religion and Law (president, Roman Lunkin; chairperson; Inna Zagrebina), the main attacks against Pentecostals are taking place in the Far East.[2]

Unfortunately, violations of the rights of Christian Pentecostals have occurred in Moscow, as well as in other regions.[3] Thus, on 6 September 2012 a building of the Church of the Holy Trinity, located on Nikolaya Starostina Street, in Novokosino, Moscow, was ransacked and destroyed. The church belonged to the community of the Russian Church of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals).
For many years believers have tried to legalize the right to a church building in the East Prefecture of the City of Moscow. However, their efforts were not successful. On 17 May 2012 a judicial decision was rendered to remove temporary structures belonging to the community. The believers’ requests to allocate a land plot for the construction of a new church building were not considered by the prefecture.

Almost immediately after midnight on 6 September, persons who identified themselves as the police broke into the church, cut all lines of communication and, having seized the cell phone of the girl on duty at the church, detained her at the police station for several hours. During this time all valuables were stolen from the Church of the Holy Trinity, including religious books and chalices for the Eucharist. Objects sacred to the believers and religious books were desecrated. All supporting buildings on the territory of the Church of the Holy Trinity were barbarically ransacked. Safes were opened. An automobile was broken into and a generator, an audio control console, musical instruments, and other valuables were stolen.

Upon arriving, Pastor V. N. Romankov could not enter the premises of the church. The minister was insulted by unknown persons at the site of the ransacked church building. Church members were subjected to physical violence from people identifying themselves as the “people’s guard.” Police officers present at the time ignored the believers’ requests for protection from insults and violence.
Such an event is an act of vandalism and barbarism. What happened was a flagrant insult to the religious feelings of the believers.

The history of Pentecostals in the U.S.S.R. shows that this religious movement of Protestantism cannot be broken even by the harshest persecution. In 1929, the activity of the Evangelical Christian religion (Pentecostals) was banned in the Soviet Union. From 1929 to 1941, Pentecostals received 20–25 year sentences in labor camps, and at times were sentenced to be shot.

In 1945, Pentecostals were offered registration as part of the National Council of Evangelical Christian-Baptists; they were not allowed to create their own religious center. They could receive registration on the condition that they renounced their evangelical, missionary, and charitable activities, as well as “speaking in tongues.” Therefore, the majority of Pentecostal communities refused registration and continued their activity underground.

The end of the 1950’s and the beginning of the 1960’s marked the start of systematic persecution of Pentecostals in the U.S.S.R. A. I. Solzhenitsyn gives a detailed account of this in his book Arkhipelag GULAG [The GULAG Archipelago]. During that period many leaders of the communities and ordinary church members received long prison sentences. The mass media attempted in every way to discredit the activity of Pentecostals, attributing to them monstrous crimes.

Starting from 1968, some Pentecostal communities received approval for state registration, however most Pentecostal churches remained without registration until the start of the 1990’s.
In the U.S.S.R., the activity of unregistered religious communities was banned and prosecuted as a crime. Ordinary members of unregistered communities were constantly persecuted, usually by the imposition of fines, for their participation in prayer meetings. There were several instances where private homes used by Pentecostals for joint prayer were confiscated or even demolished.

During court proceedings, various criminal charges were leveled against directors of unregistered communities of Pentecostals, including charges under Article 190 or Article 70 of the Criminal Code, that is, slander against the Soviet system and anti-Soviet propaganda. The directors of the Pentecostals were accused of harming the believers’ health with fanatical rituals.

Soviet propaganda used two main methods to discredit Pentecostals. They were accused of extreme fanaticism, even of human sacrifice. The story also spread that religion was just a cover for their true mercenary motives—they “served the interests of world imperialism” for dollars.

After the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic Law on Freedom of Religion dated 25 October 1990 entered into force, unregistered communities of Pentecostals began to legalize their activity.

The Decree by the President of the Russian Federation on Measures to Exonerate Religious Ministers and Believers Victimized by Groundless Repression dated 14 March 1996 No. 378 condemned the “many years of terror unleashed by the Bolshevist Soviet Party regime against religious ministers and believers of all denominations.” All previously convicted Pentecostals were exonerated.

Anti-cultist myths used against Pentecostals in recent years essentially replicate the stereotypes of Soviet anti-religious propaganda and promote divisions in society on the basis of religion.

The strengthening of the influence of Protestantism, includingthat of Pentecostals, is a normal processin modern Russia. Russian Protestants are an integral part of the developing middle class. They are the ones most active and effective in social work: they help drug addicts and alcoholics return to a normal life, aid children in difficult situations—including adopting orphans. Protestants obey the law, pay taxes, engage in business, and follow Christian moral principles. They are conscientious workers. They do not drink or smoke.

A noteworthy event was the election on 18 March 2012 of a Protestant mayor in the city of Tolyatti. The majority of voters (in the second round—about 57 percent) cast their ballot for Sergey Igorevich Andreyev, who did not hide his affiliation with Protestantism, despite the “anti-sect” campaign launched by his opponents.

It is high time for decisive measures to be taken to normalize relations between the State and Protestants, including organizing regular meetings of the leaders of the country with the Advisory Committee of the Leaders of the Protestant Church in Russia.

Jehovah’s Witnesses—A Priority in the “Fight Against Extremism”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the later movements in Protestantism, appearing in the United States in 1870. They first appeared in Russia at the end of the 19th century; in Finland they received official recognition in 1913, which at the time was part of the Russian Empire.

Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced severe repression in the U.S.S.R. Leaders in the communities and active preachers were sentenced to long prison terms. Believers and members of their families were deported to Siberia.

For example, in 1949 all Jehovah’s Witnesses who were discovered by the authorities in Moldova and who refused to renounce their faith were deported to Siberia and the Far East. In 1951, all Jehovah’s Witnesses known to the authorities in Western Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia who maintained integrity to their beliefs were deported to Siberia (over 8,500 persons).
In 1965, Jehovah’s Witnesses were released from exile in Siberia; however their religious communities in the U.S.S.R. were not permitted to register. Repression of the believers continued until the beginning of 1991.

Jehovah’s Witnesses received official recognition in Russia on 27 March 1991. In accordance with the Federal Law on Exoneration of Victims of Political Repression dated 18 October 1991 No 1761-1 and the Decree by the President of the Russian Federation on Measures to Exonerate Religious Ministers and Believers Victimized by Groundless Repression dated 14 March 1996 No. 378, all Jehovah’s Witnesses persecuted under the Soviet regime were exonerated and declared victims of political repression.

Accusations of extremism were brought against Jehovah’s Witnesses and their religious literature starting in 2009. In the last few years, on their official website “Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia” (http://www.jw-russia.org/ ), there is a steady stream of news releases and documents regarding new criminal and civil cases, court proceedings, searches, and detainments of believers. Certain publications have been declared extremist materials.

A person unfamiliar with the preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses may wonder if they are a dangerous terrorist organization, posing no less a threat than al-Qaeda.

As a religious studies expert, having defended in 2002 my doctoral dissertation on the evolution and activity of the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and having continued to acquaint myself with their publications, I can affirm that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take up arms and that they reject violence. There is no extremism in their teachings, but there is the firm conviction that their religion is the only true one.

Obviously, if you declare extremist religious publications in which a religious organization claims their religion is the true one and other religions have strayed from the truth, then almost all religious literature, including the holy writings of world religions, would be declared extremist.

There is something else that is obvious. If neither Hitler nor Stalin could destroy the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then even more so modern Russian anti-cultists cannot. The history of Jehovah’s Witnesses irrefutably proves that they cannot be intimidated by false accusations of extremism, fines, or criminal cases.

I believe that the centralized religious organization that numbers around 200,000 members in Russia merits more objective and benevolent treatment by the state. I recommend that persons responsible for decisions in the field of politics relating to religious associations personally visit the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia located in Saint Petersburg. See the exhibit dedicated to the history of the organization. Speak with the workers there, and you will see they are not extremists but law-abiding persons convinced that their religion is the true religion. Meet with the administration of Jehovah’s Witnesses and try to reach an agreement on how to avoid conflicts and settle differences.

There is something else that is obvious. If neither Hitler nor Stalin could destroy the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then even more so modern Russian anti-cultists cannot. The history of Jehovah’s Witnesses irrefutably proves that they cannot be intimidated by false accusations of extremism, fines, or criminal cases.

I believe that the centralized religious organization that numbers around 200,000 members in Russia merits more objective and benevolent treatment by the state. I recommend that persons responsible for decisions in the field of politics relating to religious associations personally visit the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia located in Saint Petersburg. See the exhibit dedicated to the history of the organization. Speak with the workers there, and you will see they are not extremists but law-abiding persons convinced that their religion is the true religion. Meet with the administration of Jehovah’s Witnesses and try to reach an agreement on how to avoid conflicts and settle differences.
 
Is There Any Extremism in The Church of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard's Works?

The Church of Scientology is one of the few religious organizations, that don't deny the verity of other religions. The idea of God as of the urge of Man towards existence in the form of infinity enables Scientology to overcome contradictions between different conceptions of Superior Reality, characteristic of religious thought.

In Scientology they suppose, that, along with his spiritual growth, every man comes to his own, growing more profound, comprehension of God, and also to his communication with Supreme Being. Moreover, a Scientology Church member may be at the same time a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hebrew or may have other religious convictions. If we take the statistics all over the world, then among Scientologists, according to their own data, besides 24% of Scientology Church members, having no other religious convictions besides dedication to Scientology, 26% are Catholics, 27% are Protestants, 5% are Hebrews, 1% are the followers of Buddhism or Hinduism.

Scientologists declare proudly, that this religion, having emerged in 1954, is the most fast-growing religious organization in the world. That's why the lack of claims on the verity of their religion alone doesn't save the Church of Scientology from extremism charges. The true reason of aggressive attacks of anti-cultists, aimed at the Church of Scientology, is the dynamic growth in number of followers of Scientology all over the World, including Russia as well.

According to A. Dvorkin's convictions, any materials by L. Ron Hubbard are extremist and dangerous; if one achieves the prohibition of Hubbard's works, then the activity of the Church of Scientology will become impossible without them.

Anti-cultists are not daunted by the fact, that, in accordance with the reckoning available, over ten thousand of published works, describing the doctrine and technology of Scientology, including dozens of books, thousands of articles and over 3 thousand of recorded lectures, belong to L. Ron Hubbard. That's why it's not so easy to declare them extremist. Besides, Hubbard is known as a fiction writer. Can even literary works by Hubbard, including his fiction novels, really be extremist too, according to anti-cultists' conviction?

Of late years in Russia constantly, but with various results, the trials are going about admission of one or another of Hubbard's works as extremist materials.

So, in Surgut (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area) on March 26, 2010 the city court made a decision to declare 29 works by Ron Hubbard ''extremist''. On October 12, 2010 the court of Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area rescinded the decision of Surgut city court of March 26, 2010, sent the case for retrial to the same first instance court with differently constituted bench. On December 9, 2010 Surgut city court rejected the claim of the public prosecutor's office for declaration of 29 works by Ron Hubbard ''extremist''. Scientologists pushed the removing of those 29 texts out of the Federal list of extremist matters.

In Novy Urengoy (Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area of Tyumen Region), in 2011 the court has non-suited the claim of the public prosecutor's office for declaration of Hubbard's biography the extremist matter.

On August 24, 2011 the court of Naberezhnye Chelny (Republic of Tatarstan) declared 13 works, 3 thousand pages of printed text in size, and 63 hours of recorded lectures extremist matters. No one of Scientologists has been informed about the trial, and from the court record it became known, that the proceeding, in the course of which the matters were considered by the prosecutor and the judge, took only twenty-five minutes. Probably, such efficiency is worthy entering in The Guinness Book of Records – the yearbook of world records, including the most funny and extravagant achievements.
On March 19, 2012 the Supreme Court of Republic of Tatarstan reversed the judgment of the city court of Naberezhnye Chelny, according to which 13 works by Ron Hubbard were declared extremist.
Just adjudications, delivered in the number of regions, are remarkable: they indicate, that the triumph of legality and common sense in the processes for declaration of pious literature extremist matters is possible.

Otherwise, passing of unfair judgments is also going on. For example, on June 29, 2011 the city court of Schelkovo (Moscow Region), in accordance with the claim of city prosecutor, declared 9 books and 9 audio-lectures by Ron Hubbard extremist matters. On March 20, 2012 Moscow regional court left without revision this decision of the city court of Shchelkovo. In connection with this judgment at law the books and audio-lectures by Ron Hubbard will be included in the Federal list of extremist matters and their dissemination on the territory of Russian Federation will be prohibited.
The city prosecutor of Schelkovo stated, that Hubbard's doctrine absolutely doesn't correspond to the mentality and lifestyle of Russian citizens, and the study programs, publications, audio and video editions on Scientology ''undermine traditional spiritual basics of life on the territory of Russian Federation''.

From the religious expert's point of view, the doctrine, which absolutely doesn't correspond to the mentality and lifestyle of Russian citizens, has no chance to acquire any followers on the territory of Russia. All the more, it can't constitute any real danger for ''traditional spiritual basics''.

So, what did the city court of Schelkovo find in the works by Hubbard, that is extremist? In accordance with the conclusions of the complex psycholinguistic research, on which the court decision was based, the books and booklets by Hubbard “are aimed at the formation of isolated social group, which is the Church of Scientology, the members of which are being trained in perfect functioning. This literature contains appeals to execution of extremist activity, the information in these materials is aimed at the destruction of social groups, different from the Church of Scientology''.

One may agree that the members of the Church of Scientology are being trained in perfect functioning. In fact, the most serious consideration is given by Scientologists to the staff training. The other statements are false.

Neither the Church of Scientology nor the community of Scientologists has indications of “isolated social group”. The Church of Scientology is open for visitors; people of miscellaneous social, professional and ethnic belonging may be and become its members. A man “from the street” may come to the Church of Scientology and take part in a divine service, in “Life Improvement Courses” and other programs.

The Church of Scientology is interested in the most widespread dissemination of its ideas, Scientologists least of all resemble “isolated group”. They appreciate communication very much and try to take advantage of any chance to get into communication with miscellaneous people, with social, professional and other groups.

As of the expert's statement, as if Hubbard's works are aimed at the destruction of social groups, different from the Church of Scientology, it runs counter to the real contents of Hubbard's works and the doctrine of Scientology. The essence of Scientology is in the doctrine, that it has the tools (practical methods), capable to ensure spiritual growth of personality, to consolidate social groups, to make their activity really effective, and also to resolve global problems, facing Mankind.

How thoroughly the expert's conclusions are backed with arguments and facts?

According to the assessment of the prominent lawyer Galina Krylova, “public prosecutor's office ordered and got the research of the four books (about 3500 pages) to the sector of psycholinguistics of the Institute of linguistics of Russian Academy of Science. In this resolution on 14 pages in a large type the “research” occupied only 3 pages; the rest – quotations from the law, the citation and other formalities. Then, since the prosecutor claimed to declare “extremist” nine books and nine audio-lectures (about 6000 pages and 10 hours of listening), he addressed the same expert again. The new resolution of the chief of the sector, Professor E.F. Tarasov literally duplicated the previous one, except for the extension of the list if objects. And it fitted into 14 pages as well. Small rain lays great dust... And now imagine the research of over 6000 pages, written on 3 pages. Try just to quote one extract out of each title (9 books and 9 audio-lectures) to reason the conclusions by E.F. Tarasov, that every book and lecture he examined “instigates hatred and hostility,... humiliates the self-respect of personality or group according to their sex, race, nationality, language, birth, relation to religion, and also their belonging to a social group”... Of course, there were no such things in this resolution. But, if the expert draws conclusions like that, he must answer intelligibly such elementary questions. Keep in mind, I do not touch upon the methods and so forth. In any way, the compliance of expert must be somewhat limited'' (http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=87756).

A. Dvorkin welcomed the decisions of the city court of Schelkovo and of Moscow regional court, but expressed regret for the fact, that they can't interfere considerably the Scientologists' activity. He expressed firm conviction that Scientologists “will appeal against Moscow regional court decision and will sue to all instances up to European Court of Human Rights”. The Church of Scientology “will litigate till the end, – there is no alternative here. But, in spite of the further plans of the sect, the court decision is valid in law all over the territory of Russian Federation till it is repealed... One must be ready for the considerably serious extra-national pressure, which, in connection to this case, Russia will suffer,” – said the leading Russian sect-expert.

As Winston Churchill (1874—1965) would say about a man of such kind, “he comes into the truth at times, but then, as a rule, jumps up and cheerfully keeps going”. In this case, one may agree with A.Dvorkin, that court proceedings will continue and, finally, the decision about the declaration Hubbard's works extremist matters will be repealed. It is also right, that Scientologists won't be idle, but will keep on acting vigorously. Scientologists have already made complaints to the Supreme Court of Russian Federation and European Court of Human Rights against the decision of the city court of Schelkovo.


[1] In 2011 the Russian Council of Muftis awarded Sergey Ryakhovskiy with the medal, “For Spiritual Unification.”
[2] “The campaign to discredit Evangelical Christians is gaining momentum. It is not too late to stop the campaign.” (statement made on 21 July 2012 by the Guild of Experts on Religion and Law), http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=93996
[3] On 20 September 2012 in the village of Kulotino of Okulobskiy District of the Novgorod Region, based on a court decision in the administrative case, the bailiff service demolished the Pentecostal church, “Word of Life.” The administration of the Okulobskiy Municipal District acted as the exactor in the case.



EIFRF


In the same section
< >

Tuesday, February 16th 2016 - 17:13 Israeli anti-cult bill under fire

Knowledge of religions | Religious Freedom | Events | Books and publications | Interfaith | EIFRF presentation