MOSCOW, October 3. / TASS /. Amendments to Russia’s federal law on freedom of religion and religious groups, which prohibit certain people from leading or participating in a group of believers, come into force in Russia on October 3.
Federal Law No. 68-FZ amends the Federal Law “On Freedom of Religion and Religious Groups”, adopted this spring and signed by President Vladimir Putin in April.
The document prohibits individuals suspected of financing terrorism, whose actions have been found to be extremist by a court, from leading religious groups or participating in their activities. A similar ban is in force for foreigners and stateless persons deemed undesirable on Russian territory.
According to experts interviewed by TASS, the law will, on the one hand, protect religious people and national security, but, on the other hand, may cause problems for law-abiding members of religious organizations.
Alexander Shchipkov, political scientist and first vice-chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s synodal department for relations with society and the media, believes that the amended law is preventive in nature.
“The law will simply prevent individuals engaged in illegal activities from running and participating in religious organizations, as they often use a religious organization to cover up their activities. Second, they deceive the law-abiding believers who participate in this organization and ignore that their leaders may be criminals, ”he said.
“Therefore, on the one hand, this law aims to ensure the national security of Russia and on the other hand – to protect law-abiding believers from use for shady or criminal purposes,” Shchipkov added.
In turn, the deputy director of the Institute of Europe and director of the Institute’s Center for the Study of Problems of Religion and Society, Roman Lunkin, suggested that the application of the law could have an effect negative about law-abiding believers.
“Any verification of documents in a [religious] group can potentially expose a person [who falls under the amended law], and the whole religious group will be affected. Judging by the way the law is drafted, I think they [law enforcers] are unlikely to side with believers or leaders of religious groups and communities who did not know that a person untrustworthy came into their group, ”Lunkin told TASS.
Similar changes are already in place for traditional Russian religious organizations.