Religion law amendments in Russia concern Christians

By September 5, 2006

Russia (MNN) — A proposed amendment to Russia’s religion law could cause problems for churches and missionaries. The Ministry of Justice has submitted proposed amendments for consideration by Russian lawmakers further tightening restrictions of the controversial 1997 religion law.

Slavic Gospel Association Joel Griffith explains the changes. “The proposed amendments include some provisions that would forbid lay believers from preaching without authorization or official documents. All ministers and members of the church executive councils would have to have documents confirming their status. The law, as it’s proposed, would also require churches who are planning any missionary activities to notify local and territorial governments of upcoming missionary activities.”

That’s not all. It would also restrict public preaching outside 100 meters from houses of worship.

According to Griffith, this isn’t good news for foreign workers. “This is a quote from the (proposed) law, ‘the rights of missionaries who violate the rights of missionaries’ would not be allowed to enter Russia.’ Humanitarian aid outreaches — that could fall under great scrutiny with these amendments, as would so called proselytism in regions where local law imposes restrictions.”

These are only proposed amendments, says Griffith, but they pose a threat to the church. “We really need to lift this before the Lord in prayer that these additional restrictions would not pass the Russian parliament.”

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