CESNUR - center for studies on new religions


by Geraldine Fagan (Keston News Service, April 3, 2002)

A draft law outlawing "propaganda of religious extremism" has been drawn up by the chairman of the Russian parliament's Committee for Religious and Social Organisations, Communist Party deputy Viktor Zorkaltsev. Its six articles consist mainly of definitions of general extremist activity. While affirming the right to freedom of conscience and
creed, the draft seeks to provide "spiritual security" for the state and prevent "the dissemination of ideas of religious extremism in any form".

A draft law specifically dealing with "propaganda of religious extremism" has been drawn up by the chairman of the Russian parliament's Committee for Religious and Social Organisations, Communist Party deputy Viktor Zorkaltsev. It was published on an internet site maintained by the Institute for State-Confessional Relations and Law (ISCRL) in cooperation with the religious faculty of the Russian Academy for State Service (RASS) and the Moscow City Department of Justice (www.state-religion.ru) on 14 February.

Zorkaltsev's draft states as its motivation "affirmation of the right of each to freedom of conscience and creed, consideration of the necessary provision of the spiritual security of the state, [and] recognition of the inadmissibility of dissemination of ideas of religious extremism in any form." Consisting of just six articles, it is for the most part taken up by definitions of general extremist activity. According to Article 1, this consists of "calls for and actions aimed at" the following: (Note that wording NOT already contained in Article 14 of Russia's 1997 law on religion is here cited in block capitals):

"The undermining of social order and security or threats to the security of the state.Actions aimed at forcibly changing the foundations of the constitutional order or destroying the unity of the Russian Federation. CHANGE TO THE SECULAR CHARACTER OF THE STATE, THE SYSTEM OF GENERAL STATE SECULAR EDUCATION OR THE REPLACEMENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE NORMS OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION BY THE NORMS OF RELIGIOUS LAW. The creation of armed units. Propaganda of war, the incitement of social, racial, national or religious dissension OR INTOLERANCE or hatred between people. PROPAGANDA OF INEQUALITY OR DISCRIMINATION OF CITIZENS DUE TO THEIR RACE, NATIONALITY, RELIGION OR SEX. Forcing a family to disintegrate, VIOLATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE FAMILY AND ITS MEMBERS. The infringement of the person, the rights and freedom of a citizen. The infliction of damage established in accordance with the law on the morality or health of citizens, including the use in connection with their religious activities of STIMULANTS, narcotic or psychoactive substances, hypnosis TECHNIQUES, THE ILLEGAL USE OF MEDICAL AND PHARMACEUTICAL PREPARATIONS, the performing of depraved or other disorderly actions.KNOWINGLY PROVIDING FALSE INFORMATION WITH THE AIM OF ATTRACTING NEW MEMBERS TO THE GIVEN ORGANISATION OR RESTRAINING A PERSON WHO WISHES TO LEAVE THE GIVEN ORGANISATION. Encouraging DEPRAVED ACTIONS, HARM TO ITS MEMBERS, suicide or the refusal on religious grounds of medical help to persons in life-endangering or health-endangering conditions.Hindering the receiving of compulsory SECULAR education. HINDERING THE LAWFUL ACTIVITY OF STATE ORGANS, PERSONS IN AUTHORITY OR STATE-RECOGNISED POLITICAL, SOCIAL, RELIGIOUS OR OTHER ORGANISATIONS OR CALLS FOR THE UNLAWFUL LIQUIDATION OF THE GIVEN ORGANISATIONS. Inciting citizens to refuse to fulfil their civic obligations established by law, or to perform other disorderly actions."

If such activity is "based upon religious ideas, has religious motivation or utilises religious slogans and religious attributes," continues the provision, it constitutes religious extremism.

According to Article 2 of the draft, the aim of the proposed law is "the prevention and curtailment of propaganda" specifically of religious extremism, which according to Article 1 consists of "public dissemination of extremist ideology or its justification either in organs of the mass media or by means of gatherings, demonstrations, marches, pickets, printed, graphic, audio-, video-, photo- or cine- material or in preaching." Article 2 also maintains that religious convictions are not the object of the provisions, nor do they extend to "academic, literary, artistic or publicistic works and other material results of creative endeavour if they do not intend to propagandise religious extremism."

There is scant indication in the draft of the consequences for those found to have conducted propaganda of religious extremism. According to Article 3, "public actions aimed at propagandising religious extremism are prohibited," and "persons responsible are punishable in accordance with civil and criminal legislation." Article 5 states that "the activity of political, religious and social organisations found to have engaged in propaganda of religious extremism is to be curtailed or prohibited, while such activity performed by organs of the mass media is to be discontinued."

Article 6, Part 2, however, provides for the future opportunity for related legislation. "The government of the Russian Federation is to adopt legislative acts necessary for the realisation of the current federal law," it reads.

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