The Moscow branch of the Salvation Army may finally win its long legal battle with city authorities. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation has ruled that a religious organization registered before the 1997 religion law may not be banned for failure to reregister as the law required.
A lawyer for the Army, Vladimir Ryakhovsky, said the ruling is "very positive." Ryakhovsky says authorities can legally shut down religious organizations only if these groups disband, are harmful to members' health, or incite religious hatred. The February 7 ruling follows a complaint the Army lodged with the Constitutional Court in September 2001.
The Army, following the 1997 guidelines, attempted to reregister in February 1999. But Moscow's Municipal Department of Justice rejected the application. A September 2001 "liquidation ruling" came into force in December 2001.
Galina Drozdov of the Moscow branch of the Army says the church is heartened: "It gives us hope that there is justice."
The Army says it will resubmit its application to the municipal Ministry of Justice.
"We anticipate a prompt, favorable decision," says Ken Baillie, leader of the church's work in Russia. "The court's decision is clear. We should not be denied reregistration. We trust that city officials will now honor the court's intent."
Previous Christianity Today coverage includes:
Moscow Bans Salvation ArmyEmbattled ministry appeals judicial ruling. (Nov. 12, 2001)
Russia Recognizes Salvation Army as a Religious OrganizationOfficials say that doesn't restore status to the Army's Moscow branch. (Feb. 28, 2001)
Moscow Salvation Army RejectedWithout official recognition, ministry and the elderly suffer. (Feb. 13, 2001)
Salvation Army Closed in MoscowMoscow ...