Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Russia's Supreme Court judge Yuri Ivanenko reads the decision in a court room in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)Russia's Supreme Court judge Yuri Ivanenko reads the decision in a court room in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Russia's Supreme Court on Thursday banned Jehovah's Witnesses from operating anywhere in the country, accepting a request from the justice ministry that the religious organization be considered an extremist group.

The court ordered the closure of the group's Russian headquarters and its 395 local chapters, as well as the seizure of its property.

Advertisement

The Interfax news agency on Thursday quoted Justice Ministry attorney Svetlana Borisova in court as saying that Jehovah's Witnesses pose a threat to Russians.

"They pose a threat to the rights of citizens, public order and public security," she told the court.

Borisova also said Jehovah's Witnesses' opposition to blood transfusions violates Russian health care laws.

Yaroslav Sivulsky, a spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, said in a statement they are "greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity."

Jehovah's Witnesses said they would appeal the ruling.

Jehovah's Witnesses claim more than 170,000 adherents in Russia. The group has come under increasing pressure over the past year, including a ban on distributing literature deemed to violate Russia's anti-extremism laws.

Human Rights Watch criticized Thursday's decision as an impediment to religious freedom in Russia.

"The Supreme Court's ruling to shut down the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is a terrible blow to freedom of religion and association in Russia," said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The rights group also expressed concern that if the ruling takes effect, Jehovah's Witnesses could face criminal prosecution and punishment ranging from fines to prison time.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Light streams into St. Gabriel’s Passionist Parish in Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Larkin Architect Limited)
The daily light show at St. Gabriel's in Toronto is not just aesthetically moving, writes Dean Dettloff. It is part of a church design that reminds us of human dependence on the earth.
Dean DettloffAugust 23, 2019
“The Church is a family of families,” Pope Francis writes in “Amoris Laetitia.”
Kerry WeberAugust 23, 2019
Our commitment to God is expressed through living out the gospel, but also in your fidelity to prayer. Day in and day out. “Showing up and shutting up,” as my friend likes to say about daily prayer.
James Martin, S.J.August 23, 2019
In this Aug. 20, 2019 drone photo released by the Corpo de Bombeiros de Mato Grosso, brush fires burn in Guaranta do Norte municipality, Mato Grosso state, Brazil. (Corpo de Bombeiros de Mato Grosso via AP)
A record number of wildfires and the rapid deforestation of the Amazon are prompting Latin American bishops to plead for international action, writes America’s correspondent in Brazil, Eduardo Campos Lima.
Eduardo Campos LimaAugust 23, 2019