Мнение со стороны

Maksym Shevchenko: "This lawsuit violates the fundamental principles of freedom of conscience"

"I believe that this lawsuit, of course, violates the fundamental principles of freedom of conscience, since Jehovah's Witnesses can hardly be called an extremist organization. Jehovah's Witnesses have not been seen in any terrorist attacks or malicious intentions. The Witnesses do not call for any military action, terrorist organizations, or disobedience.

They try to accuse witnesses of not donating blood. But there are a lot of Orthodox groups, or Muslim, or Jewish, especially those who treat blood with care in the same way, considering it a sacred carrier of the soul, for example. So you can go far.

I think, of course, that the Witnesses are persecuted for only one reason - that they, working on the principle of "from person to person", are a serious competitor to the Russian Orthodox Church in a number of regions. And I believe that Jehovah's Witnesses, as an organization that originated in Russia in the nineteenth century, are, if not traditional, then at least primordially Russian organizations. Its U.S. branch, Watchtower, cannot determine the faces of this organization, just as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia cannot determine the faces of Russian Orthodoxy.

Jehovah's Witnesses sat in Stalin's camps, in Nazi camps and, in general, firmly and strongly professed their faith. Those who have personally encountered the Witnesses in their personal lives, when it was not about religious matters, but simply about human relations, know that, as a rule, they are very decent, honest people who do not steal, do not drink, who can be trusted.

If it is possible to ban an organization whose members make up hundreds of thousands of people in this way, then it is possible to repress other religious or social ideological groups quite easily. I believe that this is arbitrariness, and it is impossible to agree with this arbitrariness. And it is necessary to protect the rights of citizens of the Russian Federation who are members of this religious organization in a legal way.

And modern persecution seems to me simply absurd. I do not understand what their relevance is even for those who initiate them. Just tick the box, or what? That we will strangle those who have been strangled? It seems to me that this is an extremely unpleasant manner of the Russian law enforcement agencies and the legal system. Here, obviously, there is the hand of influential public organizations, the Moscow Patriarchate and high officials sympathetic to it in the special services, who believe that by banning the Witnesses, they are fulfilling some kind of alleged duty to Russian Orthodoxy.

Therefore, to be honest, I consider the ban unconstitutional, violating the fundamental principles of freedom of conscience and the very essence of the law on extremist activity."

Maxim Shevchenko, President of the Center for Strategic Studies of Religions and Politics of the Modern World, member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.