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Russia Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible As Extremist Literature

A Jehovah Witness member reads a Bible during a four-day International Assembly in Bordeaux, southwestern France, July 31, 2009. Jehovah's Witnesses gather in ten French cities during an International Assembly from July 30 through August 2. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (FRANCE RELIGION) - RTR26A1NA Jehovah Witness member reads a Bible during a four-day International Assembly in Bordeaux, southwestern France, July 31, 2009. Jehovah's Witnesses gather in ten French cities during an International Assembly from July 30 through August 2. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (FRANCE RELIGION) - RTR26A1N

Russian courts banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible as extremist literature Thursday, after deeming it not a bible.

The Vyborg City Court banned the New World Translation of the Bible after an expert study from Moscow’s Center for Sociocultural Expert Studies (CSES) deemed that it was not a bible. The ruling, which ended months of litigation suspended since July 26, contradicted Russia’s Federal Law on Extremism, signed by Vladimir Putin in 2015 that prohibits the Bible from being labeled extremist literature.

The CSES experts did not have any religious studies degrees, nor were they familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses literature, according to Dr. Roman Lunkin, head of the Center for Religion and Society Studies at the Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

“In defiance of all good sense, Russia’s law-enforcement system generates completely ridiculous expert studies (and, it appears, they encourage loyal supporters to open expert centers). Regarding the Center for Sociocultural Expert Studies commissioned to analyze the Witnesses’ Bible, not one of the experts has a degree in religious studies and they are not even familiar with the writings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their analysis included quotes that were taken from information provided by the Irenaeus of Lyon Centre, a radical Orthodox anti-cult organization known for opposing Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as many other religions and denominations,” Lunkin said.

The Irenaeus of Lyon Centre, headed by a man named Alexander Dvorkin, is the Russian member association of FECRIS, the French NGO entirely funded by the office of the French Prime Minister, dedicated to destroying any religious minority that contradicts the doctrines of the Russian Orthodox Church. (Related: The French Conspiracy With The Russian Orthodox Church That Destroyed The Jehovah’s Witnesses)

The prosecution’s case hinged upon the argument that the New World Translation (NWT) Bible was not a bible at all, because the Jehovah’s Witnesses referred to it as the Holy Scriptures, instead of specifically calling it a bible. CSES used that technicality to skirt around article 3 of the Federal Law on Extremism, which states: “The Bible, the Quran, the Tanakh, and the Kangyur, and their contents, and quotations from them cannot be recognized as extremist materials.”

The court’s ruling legally legitimized the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church’s efforts to completely purge the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion from Russia. The ruling also paved the way for the purging of any other religious minority, so long as the government deems said minorities to be extremist and label their scriptures as something other than a Bible, Quran, Tanakh, or Kangyur, regardless of whether or not they actually are those books.

The prosecution used CSES’s counsel twice in this case, using the CSES’s original conclusions about the NWT bible as the basis for their initial arguments. Russia’s Supreme Court precedent disqualifies an expert from being used more than once in the same case to address the same issue. With the final nail in the coffin of the Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses on the line, the court ignored that precedent.

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