Putin Signs Law Restricting Religious Expression, Invitations to Church

By Dustin Siggins Published on July 10, 2016

Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed an anti-terrorism bill that includes dramatic restrictions on religious liberty for individuals and organizations.

In June, religious liberty advocates domestically and internationally urged Putin to veto the bill. In addition to terrorism prevention measures like making it a crime to support terrorism on social media, the law created a new definition of missionary work that restricts and punishes certain religious recruitment and promotion.

Multiple sources have reported on the law’s details. According to The Christian Post, residential areas are off-limits to religious missionaries, and anyone who engages in online efforts to encourage people to join a religion must have official documents from a religious group.

Fines for individuals go from $75 to $765 for Russian citizens. Foreigners will be deported for violations, and organizations could be fined up to $15,265. Orthodox Christians are given a reprieve from the restrictions, which take effect in 2018.

Forum 18 notes that “the new Chapter 24 of the Religion Law states”:

For the purposes of this federal law, missionary activity is recognised as the activity of a religious association, aimed at disseminating information about its beliefs among people who are not participants (members, followers) in that religious association, with the purpose of involving these people as participants (members, followers). It is carried out directly by religious associations or by citizens and/or legal entities authorised by them, publicly, with the help of the media, the internet or other lawful means.

Sharing beliefs with those who have different beliefs can only be done in specific locations, mostly owned by or rented by religious groups. Residential buildings are banned from such activities, except under specific allowances, including ownership by or rental by religious groups.

On Thursday, Stream contributor John Murdock urged presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump to oppose the bill. “If candidate Trump stays silent here, what can we expect from a President Trump as religious freedom comes under increasing pressure here in the land of the free and the home of the brave?” asked Murdock, who noted Trump’s positive relationship with Putin.

The Stream could not find evidence that Trump has yet commented on the new law.

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