Salvation Army Closed in Moscow
For the Moscow branch of the Salvation Army, the beginning of the year 2001 marked what the head of the Christian group's Russian operations, Kenneth Baillie, has called a "legal never-never land."
"As of two days ago, we do not exist in Moscow," Baillie told ENI in a telephone interview on January 3, referring to the refusal of the Moscow authorities to re-register the city's branch of the Salvation Army as a religious organization.
Under a controversial law on religion dating from 1997, local branches of the Salvation Army, together with many thousands of religious organizations throughout Russia that had registered under a more liberal 1991 law, had until December 31, 2000 to be re-registered with local authorities.
The Salvation Army did not have a registered central office in Russia and relied on local registration of its branches in various Russian cities where they successfully obtained re-registration. However, in February last year, the Moscow city justice department rejected the application of the army's Moscow branch. According to Baillie, the Moscow authorities argued that since the group's headquarters were in London, the Salvation Army could only open a "representative office" in Moscow.
The decision was subsequently upheld by a Moscow district court and by the city court on November 28.
"Since we have the word 'army' in our name, they [the court] said we are a militarized organization bent on the violent overthrow of the Russian government," Baillie said in an earlier interview.
To ensure its continued operation in the city, the Salvation Army applied, under a separate section of the 1997 law, for registration by Russia's federal authorities as a "centralized organization". In late December, the expert committee ...