The Slavic Centre for Law and Justice (SCLJ) – the Russian affiliate of the ACLJ – has won a major victory for churches and the rule of law in an area of the world where churches still face heavy regulation from the state.
The SCLJ won a case before the Constitutional Court of Russia that will help prevent prosecutors from filing frivolous lawsuits against churches and other citizens.
As the SCLJ noted, in Russia, it is critical that “[e]ach action brought against the Church . . . be taken seriously because the law on religious organizations specifies that a religious organization may be dissolved if it ‘repeatedly or grossly’ violated the law.”
Prior to the SCLJ’s victory, prosecutors were allowed to file frivolous lawsuits, force the responding party to proceed through numerous hearings racking up large legal bills, and then voluntarily dismiss the claims while remaining exempt from having to reimburse the responding party for its legal costs. Russian prosecutors frequently took aim at small religious organizations that lacked the ability to financially defend against the charges without the help of pro bono services offered by SCLJ lawyers.
The SCLJ appealed this law on behalf of the Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith in Blagoveschensk, Russia, after a Russian prosecutor, who was trying to make a name for himself, brought five frivolous lawsuits against it.
The Constitutional Court agreed with the SCLJ and held that when a prosecutor voluntarily waives a claim, the responding party, in this case the church, should be reimbursed its legal fees by the State.
This victory is important not only for religious organizations, but for all individuals who fall subject to frivolous or harassing lawsuits. Hopefully, this ruling will deter prosecutors from bringing unsubstantiated lawsuits against religious organizations.
You can read more about this important victory here.