07/26/2015 Russia Should Embrace Its Religious Diversity (Op-Ed)

Source: The Moscow Times

How will Europe’s human rights court respond to a government that treats a pacifist religious group as a dangerous extremist cell? The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will answer that question this summer when it rules on whether Russia’s prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses under its extremism law criminalizes freedom of religion or belief.

A ruling against the Kremlin could be a landmark decision for Russia, affecting not only Jehovah’s Witnesses. From Muslims to dissenting members of the Moscow Patriarchate Russian Orthodox Church (MPROC), other Russians are also caught in the wide net cast by this overly broad law.

Under the extremism law, religious material is banned throughout Russia once a higher court upholds a lower court ruling that it is “extremist.” Convicted individuals face up to four years in prison. As of this June, Russia’s list of banned materials reached 2,859 items, having started in 2007 with 15 items.

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