Is Religious Freedom under the Threat in Russia?

Changes in Law

The changes made to the Civil Code disastrously affected the activities of religious organizations in Russia.

New provisions for state bodies that decide on the registration of religious organizations and are directly exercising on behalf of the state control over compliance with their statutes (the Ministry of Justice and its territorial government) have opened the possibility of interfering in internal institutions, destroying them and dictating them, imposing a duty to carry out fundamental changes internal regulations, established decades ago already more than a hundred years ago.

This did not happen even in the Soviet years, of course, we did not take into account the episodes of open atheistic persecution and repression.

The Constitution of the Russian Federation in Article 28 guarantees freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of activity of religious organizations in accordance with their convictions.


The Law on Freedom of Conscience in Article 15 refers to the internal regulations of religious organizations, where it declares that “Religious organizations act in accordance with their internal regulations, if they do not contradict the legislation of the Russian Federation, and have the legal capacity provided for in their statutes. respects the internal establishment of religious organizations, unless these provisions are inconsistent with the legislation of the Russian Federation.

” Everything was fine until September 2014 when changes were made to the legislation and now internal regulations have become inconsistent with the law.

After amending the Civil Code, religious organizations that came into force on 01.09.2014 were assigned to unitary organizations. According to the definition of Article 65.1.1 in unitary organizations, “founders do not become their participants and do not acquire membership rights in them”.

Based on this norm in all regions of Russia, the prosecutor’s office as a supervisory authority began to write out prescriptions to religious organizations in which there is a membership, on the recognition of their statutes that are contrary to the law.

It was enough of state intervention in other pastimes of the people, for example, Russians couldn’t click this link as gambling laws are also strictly regulated. And now, the state intervention in the internal organization of religious organizations is legalized. What’s next?

Religious organizations


For many religious organizations, the institution of “membership” is a theological definition and is deeper in its meaning than the legal status of “membership.” The Apostle Paul in the Epistles to the Corinthians gives a profound theological meaning to this concept.

“For as the body is one, but has many members, and all the members of one body, although there are many, make up one body, so is Christ” and yet “And you are the body of Christ, and separately the members.” (1 Cor 12: 12, 27).

For the Church, with respect to every believing person who accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, professing the corresponding doctrine and having concluded an empirical union with God through the adoption of water baptism, there is no other view as a “member of the Church.” In order for a person to become a member of the Church, only the above-mentioned factors are necessary.

Becoming a member of the Church gives everyone in the church the right to participate in the life of the Church, in the ministry of the Church, in all meetings of the church.

And this is right on the one hand, but this is also the duty on the other hand. Paul presents this idea to us in the following way: “so that there is no division in the body, and all members take equal care of each other.”

Therefore, does one member suffer, all members suffer with it, is one-member famous, all members rejoice with it “. (1 Corinthians 12: 25-26).

The Apostle Paul reveals the depth of the unity of the relationship between the members of the Church in the epistle to the Ephesians saying that “… with true love all grew in Him who is the head of Christ, from whom the whole body is made up and copulated by any mutually binding bonds, acting in its the measure of each member, receives an increment to build itself in love.

“(Ephesians 4: 15-16) The apostle shows some sacred unity that is simply not possible to explain and hundreds of theological works are written on this subject, but none can be claimed the finality and fullness of the explanation of the unity between the members of the Church and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, we see that the concept of “members” in the Church is much older than the state legislation and has a much deeper content and meaning than legal definitions.

The Church cannot be in favor of changing the laws that change very often to abandon the institution of “membership” established yet by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Civil Code was adopted in the first part in 1994, from that moment already 3 more parts were taken and 99 changes were made. But the Word of God already stands for thousands of years without changes.