Church State Journal Addresses Problems With New Russian Law

Jan. 27, 1998

Religious freedom in the Russian Federation took a step backward when President Boris Yeltsin signed into law the controversial bill, "On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations," writes Dr. Derek Davis in the latest issue of the Journal of Church and State. Davis serves as editor of the journal and is director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and associate professor of political science at Baylor University.

This law, which regulates religious activity in Russia, rolls back significant statutory and constitutional protections for religious liberty that were adopted in recent years following the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union. Numerous religious groups such as the Roman Catholic Church as well as senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress protested the passage of the bill.

Essentially, the new law restricts the legal rights of religious groups that have operated in Russia for less than 15 years. In addition, groups that meet the 15-year time requirement could also suffer "liquidation" if their behaviour is deemed inappropriate by the government.

Davis cautions, however, that sanctions by other countries in protest of the new law are counterproductive. "The real weapons to win the battle for religious freedom in Russia are not political pressure and intimidation tactics," Davis writes, "but dialogue, patience and encouragement." Davis further offers an extensive analysis of why the new law was passed.

The full text of the new law is included in the journal.

Other articles in the issue of the journal include "The Wisdom of Solomon as Political Theory," by Vladimir Wozniuk; "Roman Catholicism in Today's Russia: The Troubled Heritage," by Daniel L. Schlafly Jr.; "Religion Within the Limits of Liberalism Alone?" by Patrick Neal; "Reports for the Trenches: A Case Study of Religious Freedom Issues Faced by Wiccans Practicing in the United States," by Catharine Cookson; "Freedom of Conscience

Rights: Lesson for Great Britain," by Satvinder S. Juss; and "'God--And a Religious President ... Or Jefferson and No God': Campaigning for a Voter-Imposed Religuous Test in 1800?" by Frank Lambert.

The journal also includes 29 book reviews, notes on church-state affairs and a special tribute to the late Dean M. Kelley, one of nation's leading authorities of religious liberty. Additionally, the journal contains the complete text of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision of City of Boerne v. P.F. Flores, Archbishop of San Antonio, and United States, the case that struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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