A Moscow court has ordered the local Salvation Army branch to close. Vladimir Ryakhovsky, a lawyer for the Moscow-based Slavic Center for Law and Justice, says the Army is appealing.

Judge Svetlana Grigoreva of the Tagansky district court issued an oral ruling on September 12. The Army's attorneys received the written ruling on September 28. Ryakhovsky says the order halting the branch's activities is unjustified.

The Army asked Grigoreva to delay her ruling until other Russian courts and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg respond to appeals, but she refused.

The Army's ministries in other cities will not be affected by this ruling and will continue to function under current regulations.

In a statement detailing the case, the Salvation Army called the court's action "a rush to judgment" that "perpetuated a pattern of arbitrary discrimination against the Army's basic religious rights."

Moscow authorities accuse the Army of violating a 1997 law that required religious organizations to register with the government by December 2000. Prosecutors also say the denomination did not keep government officials aware of its activities.

In court, the government said it was unaware of the Army's existence from 1998 through 2000 and that it therefore could petition the courts to close the Army's operations.

The Army says it tried to show the court "hundreds of pages of documents" that refuted the government's claim.

"Despite all the documents stacked on tables in front of her, and without looking at any of them," the statement said, "the judge entered the verdict for liquidation. The whole proceeding was over in minutes."

Related Elsewhere

Previous Christianity Today coverage includes:
Russia Recognizes Salvation Army as a Religious Organization | Officials say that doesn't restore status to the Army's Moscow branch. (Feb. 28, 2001)
Moscow Salvation Army Rejected | Without official recognition, ministry and the elderly suffer. (Feb. 13, 2001)
Salvation Army Closed in Moscow | Moscow court decision turns city into a 'legal never-never land' for Christian charity. (Jan. 11, 2001)

Media coverage of the Salvation Army's fight in Moscow includes:

Delay in Ruling Stalls Salvation Army Appeal — Crosswalk.com (September 25, 2001)
Moscow officials work to ban Salvation ArmyThe Seattle Times (September 18, 2001)
Russia 'Boots Out' Salvation Army from Moscow — Crosswalk.com (September 13, 2001)
Russia Boots Salvation Army — Associated Press (September 12, 2001)
Salvation Army's Moscow Woes Continue — CNSNews.com (August 3, 2001)

Stetson University's history department has a fantastic Russia Religion News site that not only compiles, but translates news articles related to religion in Russia.

The Salvation Army's official site includes basic information, bios on historical figures and news releases.

In July, Christian History Corner focused on the trials and tribulations faced by the Army in the past. For more on Salvation Army history, see issue 26 of Christian History. Another Christianity Today sister publication Christian Reader adapted one of the articles on Catherine Booth.

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