FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA, ON – David Anderson, Member of Parliament for Cypress Hills-Grasslands and Official Opposition Critic for International Human Rights and Religious Freedom, has condemned new laws in Russia that significantly restrict freedom of religion or belief and threaten the human rights of missionaries and religious minorities.
“Effective today, Russia has taken new steps to restrict freedom of religion under the guise of combating ‘extremism’,” said Anderson. “These draconian laws are symptomatic of a government that has greatly overstepped its authority to protect its citizens.”
Known as the “Yarovaya” law, the legislation was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 7th and came into force today. The law effectively redefines “missionary activities” – religious practices performed outside of a state-approved religious site – as “extremism”, even to the point of restricting people’s ability to invite others to their home. Those who are found to be engaging in any religious activity including preaching, proselytizing, prayer, and the distribution of religious materials outside of government-approved religious sites can now face fines and terms of imprisonment.
Anderson noted that international organizations will also face further obstacles to their work. The new law requires missionaries to prove that they have been invited to Russia by a state-approved religious institution. Once in the country, their work is restricted. Individual perpetrators of the law will face a fine of $1,000 and deportation. Organizations will face much larger fines of almost $20,000.
“Millions of Russian citizens and international missionaries, with no connection whatsoever to terrorism, have been unfairly affected by these overreaching laws,” continued Anderson. “The open and peaceful practice of one’s religion is a fundamental right that has been increasingly infringed upon by world leaders in the name of ‘public order.’ I am saddened to see that President Putin has chosen to follow their lead and restrict the rights of all religious minorities in Russia.”
“All people should be allowed to practice and share their faith without fear of massive fines and jail time,” concluded Anderson. “We call on the Russian regime to drastically amend or repeal these restrictive laws in order to bring them into line with international human rights standards.”
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