Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist group? That’s a question the Russian Supreme Court will soon be deciding, with the fates of 2,300 congregations and 175,000 believers in the balance.
Jehovah’s Witnesses began a worldwide letter-writing campaign on March 21, days after the Justice Ministry asked the court to rule on the denomination.
The court is scheduled to take up the case on April 5.
“We’re very hopeful that it will have an impact with the Russian officials,” Semonian said of the letter-writing campaign, “and they will see that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not threats when it comes to the government — that we’re a peaceful people and that we contribute to the Russian people.”
Russia has already banned door-to-door evangelizing and missionaries have to apply for permits — both of which curtail the influence of the Witnesses and serve to boost the profile of the Russian Orthodox Church.
As much as I’d like to see harmful religions defeated, a court order isn’t the way to make it happen. Actual persecution has a way of backfiring. And no one who supports freedom of religion should want to see a government ban on one particular faith.
It’s interesting to see how Witnesses around the world are reacting. The letter-writing campaign is an attempt to influence how the judges will rule, which seems to go against their own anti-politics beliefs. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t vote, lobby, run for office, or “participate in any action to change governments.”
I guess, just as with so many religious rules, that one’s flexible.
Why is that? Why is an exception allowed in this case when Witnesses are stubbornly against things like blood transfusions even when believers’ lives are in danger?
Don’t think about it too hard. There’s no rationale that justifies this letter-writing decision. It’s hypocrisy, pure and simple. But still, Witnesses should have the right to persuade people of their beliefs no matter how delusional we think they are. The authoritarian Russian government is, once again, overstepping its bounds by even considering this question, and I have no doubt they’ll find a way to suppress this minority viewpoint. They’re pros at doing that by now.
(Image via Shutterstock)