Russia Considers Adding Government Panel to Regulate Religious
While the world continues to debate the merits of Russia's recent religion bill, which restricts the activities of most religious bodies besides the Russian Orthodox Church, government officials are considering adding a new panel to review mass media that deals with religion.
According to Keston News Service, the deputy head of the Federal Service of Russia for Radio and Television Broadcasts, Dmitri Zasluev, proposed the creation of the panel at a September 30 meeting of the Russian cabinet's Commission on Questions of Religious Associations. The new panel would regulate both electronic and print media. The scope of the panel's work is not yet clear, but in a September 8 letter written by the broadcast service's head, Valentin Lazutkin complains, "In the broadcasts of some organisations a significant place is given to foreign preachers confessing religious attitudes which are not traditional for the Russian Federation."
The Rev. Vsevelod Chaplin of the Russian Orthodox Church's Department for External Church Relations told Keston on October 17 that the new panel would not create pressure on the mass media, but instead would offer technical and educational assistance to journalists.
In the meantime, Keston News Service, which is run by a religious rights organization in England, reports that the following events have occurred this month in wake of the passing of Russia's religion bill:
The Ministry of Justice of the province of Khakassia in Siberia has reversed its decision to close the independent Evangelical Lutheran Mission of Khakassia, following a complaint by the mission's pastors about the legal procedures used to cancel their registration. Officials warned the pastors, though, that the province may continue efforts to shut the mission down.
The Salvation Army has been told by St. Petersburg officials that it may no longer meet in two city-owned meeting halls that it has been renting.
Provincial officials have withheld registration from a Jewish congregation in Bryansk, about 200 miles southwest of Moscow, pending further investigation of the congregation's qualifications.
An independent Pentecostal congregation that was expelled by authorities from the school building where it met on Sundays is now holding its worship services in a nearby street.
©1997 Heather Elizabeth Peterson