The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an “extremist” group that must give the government all of their property. That’s what Russia’s Supreme Court ruled today, and it’s a striking blow to religious freedom in a nation where dissent is routinely punished.
The ruling will affect the fates of 2,300 congregations and 175,000 believers.
Russian authorities have put several of the group’s publications on a list of banned extremist literature and prosecutors have long cast it as an organisation that destroys families, fosters hatred and threatens lives.
So much for that letter-writing campaign that was already a violation of the religion’s own rules against getting involved in politics…
There are plenty of reasons to criticize the Jehovah’s Witnesses: Their proselytizing is annoying, their blood transfusion refusals are dangerous, their Disfellowshipping of former believers (cutting off all ties with them, even if they’re family members) is downright cruel. But essentially banning a religion via court order amounts to actual persecution and shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone. There are ways to push back against their harmful beliefs without preventing them from worshiping altogether.
For now, the Witnesses say they’ll appeal to a Higher Power: the European Court of Human Rights.
Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Cherepanov, a Jehovah’s Witnesses representative, as saying that the group will appeal the decision in the European Court of Human Rights.
“We will do everything possible,” he said.
The Russian branch of the Witnesses called it a “black day for the fundamental freedoms” in the country.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)