New Russian Law Punishes Evangelism

Despite pleas from religious organizations, business leaders, and human rights activists, Russian President Vladimir Putin this week signed legislation that includes heavy-handed requirements for speech on electronic media and restrictions on religious freedom. Indeed, Russia’s own Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights called for the law’s rejection because of its “unconstitutionality.”

The new law is especially harmful to those who wish to preach and teach the Gospel. Government permits through registered religious groups will be required for evangelism. Moreover, such outreach efforts will essentially be restricted to church building sites.

Dr. Hannu Haukka, President  of Great Commission Media Ministries, which is actively engaged in Russia, said, “This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929. At that time confession of faith was permitted only in church. Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history.”

Similarly, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, stated, “The enactment of a law restricting the free exercise of religion by any nation should be a matter of grave concern and prayerful action by Christians of all nations. Following a pattern of other human rights abuses, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is criminalizing a central duty for all followers of Christ – sharing our faith. “

Dr. Johnson added, “In keeping with the Apostle Peter’s declaration, ‘We must obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29), I commend the faithfulness of Russia's evangelical Christians and urge believers across the world earnestly to seek God’s protection for all those who are being faithful in their witness. I also commend NRB members who are seeking to share the Good News in Russia.”

In a speech last week decrying the law and Russia’s trajectory on the world stage, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) noted, “We need to begin telling the truth about an increasingly aggressive actor in global affairs.” He added that the new law is “an affront to free people everywhere.”

In a similar vein, NRB President Dr. Jerry A. Johnson declared, “The United States government and all other nations that profess a commitment to religious freedom should urge Russia to repeal this unjust law. Let’s pray this new iron curtain of Christian persecution in Russia will be lifted quickly and without harm to our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

  • Learn more about this law from Christianity Today here.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: July 8, 2016

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