You know the American Center for Law and Justice and the battles we fight daily to preserve religious freedom in the United States, but do you know that our affiliate international offices fight similar battles around the globe? Our affiliate office, the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice (SCLJ), has been actively pursuing religious freedom in Russia since 1993. Recently, the U.S. State Department recognized the SCLJ's important work and its reliability as Russia's premier experts in the field of religious liberties. Last week, the Department published a report on Religious Freedom and heavily relied on the work of the SCLJ for its findings.
The report acknowledged that the status of religious freedom in Russia is steadily worsening. Although Russia promotes religious equality on the books, in practice, the government discriminates against minority religions. Under the guise of fighting religious extremism, the government persecutes non-orthodox faiths, including Baptists, Pentecostals, Lutherans, and Seventh Day Adventists. To Russia, these non-orthodox faiths are "destructive sects."
As the State Department report stated:
[T]he Slavic Center for Law and Justice and a number of minority "nontraditional" religious leaders asserted that the government and majority religious groups increasingly used the mass media, conferences, and public demonstrations to foment opposition to minority religious groups, characterizing them as threats to physical, mental, and spiritual health, and asserting that these groups threatened national security.
The report highlighted several SCLJ cases: a case where local authorities refused to grant permission to build a non-orthodox church because an orthodox church already existed in the area; a case where a mayor and several men disrupted a Baptist prayer services and physically attacked the Baptists without cause; and a case where a court ordered the demolition of a house owned by a pastor of a Pentecostal church because of his affiliation with a "dangerous sect." We commend our partners at the SCLJ and recognize the great work they do to promote religious liberties in Russia.