An article July 23 by Daily Caller columnist Joshua Gill exposes the “French Connection” in the Russian Supreme Court’s July 17 ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, showing it was the result of a conspiracy funded by the French government, blessed by the Russian Orthodox Church, and sanctioned by the Putin administration.
“A French NGO—fully funded by the French government with the aim of combatting religious minorities—partnered with the Putin administration and the Russian Orthodox Church to label non-Orthodox religions in Russia as extremist groups and eliminate them,” he writes. “The May 25 arrest of Danish citizen Dennis Christensen in Russia thrust the plight of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) into the global spotlight. Russian authorities arrested Christensen, along with 15 other Jehovah’s Witness members, during a raid on a JW compound while the members within were engaged in a Bible study. The raid was conducted after the Russian Supreme Court banned the JWs in Russia on April 20, and labeled them an extremist organization.”
Gill poses the question, why did the Justice Ministry have Christensen arrested? And why has it targeted the JWs who are known to be pacifists? He explains, “The Justice Ministry made its decision based on counsel from the Ministry’s Expert Council for Conducting State Religious Studies Expert Analysis. The Expert Council’s purpose is to investigate religions that deviate from Russian Orthodox teaching and to recommend actions against those religions to the state.”
The Expert Council is headed by Aleksander Dvorkin, vice president of the Russian branch of FECRIS, the European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism, a French NGO.
According to the Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience (CAIFC), the United Nations and the Council of Europe recognize FECRIS as an NGO, despite the fact that the department of the French prime minister supplies 100 percent of the organization’s funding.
“How can a Prime Minister declare that there is no legal definition of a sect/cult in France and at the same time finance at the level of 100% a NON-GOVERNMENTAL association whose objective is to point at ‘sects/cults'” the statement from CAIFC reads.
CAIFC noted the partnership of FECRIS, and Dvorkin, with the Russian Orthodox Church in the campaign in Russia against religious minorities like the JWs.
“If the action of FECRIS is not religious and claims to be neutral in this regard, how can it explain that an organization registered in a secular state—France—is massively financed with the money of all French taxpayers, while its vice-president, Alexander Dvorkin, a Russian citizen is blessed and financed by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church for its anti-sect activities,” CAIFC’s statement added. “This same Russian Orthodox Church which, along with Putin, has been persecuting religious minorities for years in Russia.”
FECRIS’ campaign against the Russian JWs had been going on for years before Christensen’s arrest. A FECRIS associate organization partnered with the Russian Orthodox Church, the Committee for the Salvation of Youth from Totalitarian Cults, filed the first legal complaint against the JWs of Moscow in 1995, according to a study of FECRIS published in the Journal for the Study of Beliefs and Worldviews.
The initial complaint was dismissed, but the committee refiled their complaint against the JWs in Moscow four times, until Russian authorities agreed to launch an investigation in 1998. A Moscow district court upheld the complaint against the JWs in 2004 after a prolonged legal battle, and ordered a permanent ban against the Moscow community of JWs. Several suits to disperse individual Jehovah’s Witnesses communities were filed in other cities as well, despite the European Court of Human Rights ruling in 2010 that the ban on the Moscow Jehovah’s Witnesses violated Russian law.