Tag Archives: Russia

Russia Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses 

It is bad enough Jehovah’s Witnesses brand us apostates. The state branding us as criminals will not help either. 

As I feared would happen the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned in Russia. A religion that would always put its God before the secular ruler, was anti-imperialism, anti-nationalism, and originated in US would fall foul of Putin’s agenda for a new Russia. That they wanted to have nothing to do with this world would not have been enough. With Putin you are either with him or against him. 

I have read some blog posts by those that though living in the west would welcome such a ban happening here. To be spared the heartache of an indoctrination that left them friendless, isolated and at the mercy of the machinations of elders and ministerial servants. That if no one else other than their abuser saw their abuse, it could be dismissed by those in charge of their spiritual welfare because it needed two witnesses to be valid according to scripture. That when they left the faith other family members never speaking to them again. Denied an education as the end of the world was coming. To spare any child going through that again, this is seen as a protection from religion as child abuse. 

On sexual abuse I would agree if Jehovah’s Witnesses are not prepared to report allegations to the appropriate authorities, nor do adequate background checks on those with access to children nor ensure those abused or raped do not meet with the abuser for a congregational inquiry, then sanctions which could ultimately lead to banning would be warranted. As it should be any organisation whether religious or secular. 

When dealing with cults it might be easy to say just ban. The problem, as I mentioned in a previous post, is it makes it that much harder for people inside the organisation to leave. Most of us kids do leave. According to Pew a child of Jehovah’s Witness parents is most likely to end up an atheist compared to other faith groups – even beating the odds of that for atheist parents. 

If you genuinely want to help, then ensure there is life long learning for those that for whatever reason miss out on a full education. Make sure there is a strong tolerant and pluralistic society that can embrace multiple ideas, discussing them freely and openly. An active civil society that welcomes everyone no matter what their background is. 

Such a thing is an anathema in Putin’s Russia. Where criticism of Putin makes you a marked man. Where being gay could lead to being tortured and killed

First they killed political opponets and journalists. And I said nothing. Then they came for the gays and I said nothing. Then they came for the JWs and I said nothing. 



Do not wait till that list gets any bigger before you do say something. Putin is not an ally against fundementalism whether Islamic or Christian. He is against the very freedoms that those of us that grew up in fundamentalist faiths yearn for. 

Rather than helping such kids you will force the faith underground. The dangers are even worse compared with ensuring that good practice and safeguards are in place to protect children’s welfare, education and health. 

Freedom of religion and freedom from religion – being against this ban is to stand up for both. The state has no business saying what you should believe. 

That is up to you. 

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Banning Jehovah’s Witnesses In Russia

Refusing a blood transfusion to the point of death is, by any definition, an extreme response. In Russia they are using this to outlaw the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organisation

I had a piece of paper in my pocket, cut out from a booklet, saying I would rather die than have a blood transfusion administered because under any circumstance God’s command came first. Death did not terrify me. Being alive when the apocalypse came did. Seeing those I loved dying because, unlike me, they did not call on the name of Jehovah to be saved. 

Dying via obedience to God would be like picking up a monopoly card that read: go directly to Paradise Earth, collect eternal life. Persecution would be in a perverse sense a welcoming sign of the end of days and vindication your faith was true. The cost of which would be beyond anyone to endure, save for faith in Jehovah. 

This all made sense to me as a ten year old, with what would become an increasingly dog eared piece of paper in his pocket. It would make sense to any student of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society publications, given the tales of those in the bible who put their obedience to God before their own lives, let alone any court or leader of the land. 

For me the proposed ban is more than the Russian legal system fed up with Jehovah’s Witnesses rejecting a doctor’s treatment. This is about proscribing an American organisation, whose theology is contrary to Russian Christian orthodoxy. Their evangelising is seen as propaganda undermining traditional Russian culture and values. 

This ban is a small part in helping Putin to create a nationalistic united Russia. The 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2,000 congregation cannot be tolerated. They are against his vision of what Paradise on earth looks like. The JWs are in the way of unity under one man. 

Whilst on this blog I do warn of the blighted  lives caused by the fundamentalism of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a ban would make it even worse. It would make leaving the organisation that much harder – you were a criminal and you may have family and friends who still are in the eyes of the state. It would make ensuring people had the medical care they needed that much harder if they may need a blood transfusion. 

Human rights are universal or they are nothing. Do not ever think you can use the past experience of those of us that grew up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses to justify denying basic human rights. It is bad enough being shunned by family, without thinking we would want them locked up for it. 

I would rather be woken up from a lie in at the weekend by them proselytising on my welcome mat, then a Jehovah’s Witness arrested in the dead of night as they slept for what they thought. Because they may have strange dreams, ones I still remember, but there are worse nightmares that we must never wake up to. 

Thank you Putin for reminding me that I had the freedom to believe and then not to believe, without the state passing any judgment. It is one all Russians should enjoy too.  

Update: follow up blog post to Supreme Court decision to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.  

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Clarifying My James Kirchick Post

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Some have asked why the cross post for “James Kirchick Takes On Russia Today” was removed from Harry’s Place. As my clarification comments are no longer visible I thought would summarise them here.

I was amazed how people jumped to conclusions about the post – and indeed my own sexuality or attitudes. Simply stating if he had stuck to two minutes, and talked about specifics of what is happening in Russia it would have been better – seemed to be misconstrued as a personal homophobic or alternatively “queen V queen” assault.

That people had two polar responses to my post suggests it was never going to have the fair hearing of what was actually said.

Shame some had not read this post of mine tackling homophobia.

Or this one praising James Kirchick defending Christopher Hitchens.

Or others like challenging Mehdi Hasan on Gay rights and attitudes for Muslims.

People filled in the gaps about motivation, who I am as a person, and in some cases wrong impression what the post was about. Still, that happens when blogging.

Having shown “Russia Today” coverage in the post, and agreed serious issues in Russia because of government attitudes to gay people – and issues in some UK schools too that must not be forgotten – seems incredible some thought I was disagreeing or belittling him.

Someone mentored by Hitchens should have done better. He would have quoted government officials like the sports minister, he would have said the names of journalists murdered in Russia.

Above all Hitch would not have hijacked the show with a non stop rant because that would be the story – not what he said.

Laws are not the only thing that need changing. Attitudes on the street too. That was my problem – I think this made people feel good. My post was trying to prick that bubble of euphoria – much to be done still.

So please, if you were moved by Kirchick’s stand then get involved in showing solidarity with gay, lesbian, bi sexual and transgender people not just in Russia.

EDIT: Section 28

I have been reminded some were claiming I was comparing Russia’s anti-gay legislation with section 28.

Absolutely not – where I mention it I make very clear a journalist in the second featured video (on Russia Today) and quote Peter Tatchell making, to a lesser extent than the journalist, the comparison. As you can see in the extract below:

    In the second video above what is happening in Russia is compared to Section 28 in the UK about banning the promotion of homosexuality in school. In 2003 it was repealed by a Labour Government.

    However, only yesterday The Independent reported:

    Campaigners have identified more than 40 schools across the country that stress in their sex-education guidelines that governors will not allow teachers to “promote” homosexuality, or are ambiguous on the issue.

    The campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “This is spookily similar to Section 28 in Britain and the new anti-gay law in Russia. These schools are abusing their new freedoms to pressure teachers to teach gay issues in a way that will discourage them from saying anything positive that could be construed as ‘promotion’.”

UPDATE: Mic Wright: Russia might not be the worst place to be gay, but that shouldn’t mean ignoring Putin’s bigotry is spot on with the details of what is happening in Russia.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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James Kirchick Takes On Russia Today On Gay Rights

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James Kirchick with his rainbow braces has gone viral as he hijacked an assembled panel to talk about gay rights in Russia rather than what he was presumably paid to, the sentencing of Brad Manning:

I thought it might be worth seeing some Russia Today coverage as well:

Covering Stephen Fry call for a boycott of Olympic event:

In an article on their website they quoted the Russian Sports Minister:

[Mutko] also accused the Western media of overplaying the anti-gay issue, while saying that Russia wanted to protect its children from the propaganda of “drug addiction, alcohol abuse and non-traditional sexual orientation.”

Media coverage of the Athletics Championships, which closed Sunday in Moscow, has been overshadowed in the West by comments over Russia’s “gay propaganda law.”

Clearly that deserved condemning to a Russian audience that comparison. He was given more than the two minutes he wanted to talk about anti-gay legislation. Then he continued to refuse to talk about what he had been invited to discuss. In his rant featured above he made no such direct points on legislation instead critiquing Russia Today (hope he did later but I doubt it). Open opportunity given to him by the programme to discuss and frankly he blew it. Sorry, he made himself the story here not what is happening in Russia.

The story being that homosexuality is like being a drug user or an alcoholic according to the Russian Government – a social scourge to be discouraged. That needed articulating.

In the second video above what is happening in Russia is compared to Section 28 in the UK about banning the promotion of homosexuality in school. In 2003 it was repealed by a Labour Government.

However, only yesterday The Independent reported:

Campaigners have identified more than 40 schools across the country that stress in their sex-education guidelines that governors will not allow teachers to “promote” homosexuality, or are ambiguous on the issue.

The campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “This is spookily similar to Section 28 in Britain and the new anti-gay law in Russia. These schools are abusing their new freedoms to pressure teachers to teach gay issues in a way that will discourage them from saying anything positive that could be construed as ‘promotion’.”

Any mention of this by Jamie Kirchick on Twitter? Er, no at time of publishing this post.

Only a matter of time I am sure. Brace yourself.

Follow Up Post: Clarifying My James Kirchick Post

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Peter Hitchens Atheism and Communism

Peter Hitchens has replied to my critique of his blog as mentioned in tweets. In a nutshell he blames atheism for communism paying particular attention and terror to religion; with that atheism came a special zealotry to brutalise the religious and their institutions. This makes “atheism a bloodthirsty creed” for him.

My position is that Marxist ideology combined with the willingness to use terror by the Russian Communists, destroy pluralism and control all of society made religion the particular target of a totalitarian heart and mind state. Atheism was not the cause of the bloodshed but the terror totalitarian marxist ideology Bolsheviks espoused and brutally practised was.

The conversation on twitter thus far can be found here.

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I blame the Bolsheviks’ means of keeping power and thought control as a terrorising totalitarian state for being bloodthirsty to religion, as their main opposition – with an enthusiasm helped by being anti religion. Peter, that atheism was at the heart of everything the communists did and terror towards religion the cause and end result.

The reason this debate between us matters, regarding Leninism and Stalinism, is that I have argued that theism or atheism alone will not determine whether you will act morally. I would not blame theism for the use of torture, or wars done in the name of a deity. That lies with those who did so in the name of their god and the religious ideas that said this was legitimate or just.

My argument would be similar with atheism. I would agree that Mr Bunker, in Hitchens’ original blog is missing the point when he says nobody has been killed in the name of atheism. Taking that line you could say that about theism too. It is where you go from these two ideas that things can be good or ill for the rest of humanity.

On that, Hitchens and I would firmly agree. Marxism is not the way to go.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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