Concerning Russia, the U.S. Department of State expressed “serious concern” over the implementation of the 1997 Law on Religion, which replaced a more liberal 1990 law. According to the report:
“[The 1997 law] seriously disadvantages religious groups that are new to the country by making it difficult for them to register as religious organizations, and thus obtain the status of juridical person, which includes the right to establish bank accounts, own property, issue invitations to foreign guests, publish literature, and conduct worship services in prisons and state-owned hospitals….”
“These included large numbers of Muslim congregations, as well as local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Salvation Army, the Church of Scientology, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), most of which had officially registered national organizations….”
The report goes on to criticize government actions taken, particularly at the local and regional level, to discriminate against religions new to the country and wrongfully brand some as “cults,” specifically the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Unification Church, the Church of Scientology, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For example, the report states:
“Some religious minority denominations accuse the FSB [Federal Security Service], Procurator, and other official agencies, of increasingly harassment of certain “nontraditional” denominations, in particular, Pentecostals, Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Unification Church. Churches have been targeted for ostensible criminal investigations, landlords have been pressured to renege on contracts, and in some cases the security services may have influenced the Ministry of Justice in registration applications….”
“The authorities forcibly hospitalized a Unification Church member in a psychiatric ward for 9 days while they attempted to gather evidence against the group. There were isolated instances in which local officials detained individuals engaged in public discussion of their religious views….”
The report notes that due to a “growing convergence between the Russian Orthodox Church and the State,” agreements have been made with government ministries that “appear to give it a preferred position.” Evidence cited in the report shows that this has influenced the actions of certain government ministries and officials in discriminating against other religious groups. The report states:
“The Procurator General has been criticized by human rights activists and religious minority denominations for encouraging legal action against some minority religions and recommending, as authoritative, reference materials that are biased against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and others. In correspondence with the public and government officials from other ministries, the Procurator has recommended literature that is extremely biased…”
“…[A 1999 manual] contains biased descriptions of groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, the Unification Church, and Scientology. Also, the manual appears to provide instructions on how to generate criminal cases against these groups, including sample letters from distraught parents of members of these denominations.”
This friction between religions, while having its political motivations, can also be found to be the result of the interference of outside sources. Anti-Religious Extremist Aleksander Dvorkin is specifically mentioned in the 2001 report as a contributing influence to this unrest.
“As so-called “nontraditional” religions in the country continue to grow, many citizens, influenced by negative reports in the mass media and public criticism by Russian Orthodox Church officials and other influential figures, such as anticult activist Aleksandr Dvorkin, continue to feel hostility toward “foreign sects.”
Dvorkin is part of a worldwide network of extremists that promotes dissension between religions, and often the destruction of all religion.