New Russian Anti-Terror Law Threatens Religious Freedom
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Politics and Activism

New Russian Anti-Terror Law Threatens Religious Freedom

Restricting religion is not the answer to terrorism.

New Russian Anti-Terror Law Threatens Religious Freedom
Jack Versloot

In Russia, a new anti-terrorism law has been approved that poses a great threat to religious freedom. This new legislation, called the Yarovaya law, will require religious individuals to have prior authorization from the state to be able to share their thoughts, feelings, ideas, or beliefs about religion. Even within the privacy of their own homes, people will not have the freedom to worship or pray if there are any "unbelievers" present. The casual discussion of religion between friends, neighbors, or co-workers could potentially become a crime punishable with heavy fines or up to seven years in prison. This law even strips religious Russians of their ability to discuss their beliefs online, as this too will be prohibited. Reports state that this law "also boosts state access to private communications, requiring telecom companies to store all telephone conversations, text messages, videos, and picture messages for six months and make this data available to the authorities." As religious freedoms are being taken away, and personal privacies invaded, Russia is taking a major step in the wrong direction.

Not only does this legislation violate basic human rights, but it also attempts to take away the individual's right to religious freedom as outlined in The Constitution of the Russian Federation. As stated in Article 28, "Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of conscience, the freedom of religion, including the right to profess individually or together with other any religion or to profess no religion at all, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious and other views and act according to them." The Yarovaya law directly conflicts with this Article, making the unconstitutional nature of this law completely transparent. Human rights activists across the world are deeply disheartened to see the Russians being stripped of their constitutionally protected freedoms. What is the value of a Constitution if the government does not abide by it?

Missionaries currently proselyting in Russia will especially face great challenges due to the Yarovaya law, as this law will severely limit their ability to share their religion. Missionaries will not be allowed to teach about their religion outside of church buildings, which will make their efforts to convert new people to their faith nearly impossible. Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have been asking what this law will mean for the missionaries serving within the seven LDS missions in Russia. In response, the LDS church has put out a statement stating that, "Missionaries will remain in Russia and will work within the requirements of these changes." Despite increasing challenges and difficulties, missionaries will continue to serve the 22,000+ members of their faith in Russia to the best of their ability while honoring and obeying the new law.

The Yarovaya law reportedly is intended to help in "counter-terrorism efforts," but when it comes at the cost of personal privacy and religious freedom, is it really the best solution? The world cannot combat terrorism with military strategy alone—terrorism is best countered with ideas. Some of the world's most profound ideas relating to peace, hope, tolerance and community are discovered within the context of the world's great religions. Christianity teaches mankind to turn the other cheek and to withhold judgment of others. Hinduism teaches the principle of Ahimsa, which literally means avoiding harm to others. Buddhism teaches that hatred is never appeased by hatred but only by love. If Russia desires to be successful in preventing terrorism, it should promote the free exchange of peaceful ideas, whether religious or otherwise.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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