As early as today (April 7 2017) the Supreme Court of Russia may ban the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. This would make it a criminal offense for Jehovah's Witnesses even to meet together to pray.

Additionally all of their properties will be seized by the Government.

It is suggested that behind the scenes and even openly the Russian Orthodox Church is responsible for inciting this crack down on freedom of religion in Russia. An article in Christianity Today stated in part :

“A ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses is just the beginning in a series of repressions. Society needs an internal enemy to which the government can point in full cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church,” Cherenkov said. “The silence of Protestants with regard to repressions against Jehovah’s Witnesses will merely unleash a new wave of restrictions and repressions.

Additionally see the article from Forbes entitled "An Un-Holy Alliance"

(Un)Holy Alliance: Vladimir Putin, The Russian Orthodox Church And Russian Exceptionalism

Is the Russian Orthodox Church actually encouraging such intolerance?

Update Russian government has banned Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist group. (April 20,2017)

See: https://www.google.com/amp/mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKBN17M1ZT

I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Jehovah's Witnesses have not published any comment on a particular religious organization being behind the court cases. They are much more concerned about the outcome of the cases happening at present. Religious persecution is not new, and is rather seen as a sign of the Great Tribulation.

There have been many interviews with non-JW experts at court cases over the years, and these experts indicate that the source of claims against Jehovah's Witnesses most often comes from people with a personal agenda against Jehovah's Witnesses.

Since the majority of people in Russia are Russian Orthodox, it's more likely that these individuals come from that religion, but I don't know of any evidence of the Russian Orthodox Church itself encouraging these specific court actions. It is more of a debate of how much control the Church has over the Russian Federation in general.

Here are quotes from experts which mentioned the Russian Orthodox Church in their interviews:

“For 25 years, there have been different legal, political, and intellectual conditions in Russia and Ukraine. I am told, though, that impartial theological expertise has virtually ceased to exist in Russia. The experts—as a rule, scholars—do not have the same status and are not protected by any special legislation. It is biased people who are denomination-oriented, usually toward the Orthodox religion, who are drawn to expert examination. Being Orthodox, they cannot analyze any other way of worship in a neutral and unbiased manner. Perceiving any other religion as not true, they, in their ‘righteous indignation for the purity of their faith,’ emotionally and aggressively brand all others as extremists.”

Dr. Liudmyla Fylypovych, professor, head, History of Religions and Practical Religious Studies Department, Philosophy Institute of the National Academy of Sciences; vice president, Ukrainian Association of Researchers of Religion, Ukraine


“Elements within the Russian Orthodox Church connive with the forces of order to promote their own interests and to suppress any perceived competition.”

Dr. Jim Beckford, fellow of the British Academy


“Basically, the law is overbroad. The language of the law can be used by law enforcement to arrest or threaten individuals with religious views that are unpopular or the government simply doesn’t like. Common examples include arrests of Jehovah’s Witnesses, other minority groups, and even atheists. The law has essentially been used to protect the Orthodox viewpoints that are supported by the government, and to punish viewpoints that are perceived as alternative to or threatening to this Orthodoxy.”

Ms. Melissa Hooper, lawyer, director, International Law Scholarship Project/Pillar Project, Human Rights First; formerly regional director for American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative in Moscow, United States


“A true Russian, if Christian, is a member of the Russian Orthodox Church. Russians belonging to the ‘wrong’ religious organization are isolated and excluded from society. Therefore, the civil rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses are being grossly violated.”

Dr. Gerhard Besier, professor emeritus, European studies, Technische Universität Dresden; lecturer, Stanford University; director, Sigmund Neumann Institute for the Research on Freedom and Democracy, Germany

All of these quotes were supplementary to a 3-Part Article published by Jehovah's Witnesses:

Interesting situation. I was looking into this and found these quotes made by the Russian Orthodox metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk to TASS newsagency on 29 April 2017 (from this article) about the Russian government decision to ban Jehovah's Witnesses:

"I would like to emphasize that the Church has taken no part in this matter"

and

"The Church does not appeal for heretics, members of sects or dissenters to be prosecuted.

He was certainly not defending JWs, though. According to the article he also said, among other things, this about Jehovah's Witnesses:

"they deform Christ's teaching and falsely interpret the Gospel. Their doctrine contains many lies: they do not believe in Jesus Christ as God and Savior, they do not recognize the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and therefore cannot be called Christians."

I am guessing that the "issue" the above metropolitan has is that JWs do not believe in Jesus as both "God and Savior".

After all, from what can be seen from JW teachings (e.g. at the jw.org website), they definitely believe that Jesus is Son of God and the Savior; they just do not believe in trinity.

"Not technically."

The Russian Orthodox Church is involved with a subgroup called "Committee for the Salvation of Youth from Totalitarian Cults (“the Salvation Committee”) that's been filing complaints to prohibit the JW's from exercising their religion since 1995. The case was dismissed, and reopened 4 times in just 2 years when the 4th investigator noted “the Committee for the Salvation of Youth's statements are based upon their active hostility towards this particular religious organisation, whose members they [the Committee] deny the mere possibility of exercising their constitutional rights because of their religious beliefs”.

The repeated suits continued, and in 1998 The presiding judge admitted several new witnesses for the prosecution and allowed the Salvation Committee (the plaintiffs) to take part in the proceedings as a third party on the ground that it “defends the rights of citizens.” But the case still ended up getting thrown out as it was unmerited.

This continued on until 2004, when the courts assembled a team of experts to demonstrate how the JWs were involved in "coercion into destroying the family." Of the 7 expert's interviewed... five were members of the Salvation Committee. Who blamed the witnesses for their children having studied with the witnesses and started questioning orthodox beliefs, causing them to "have to" kick their children out of their house and disown them...

It's apparently the JW's fault because the Orthodox church members disowned their own children for thinking for themselves... which makes the JWs "destructive to families."

They also stipulated that on the basis of the witnesses stance for pacifism and discouragement for any witnesses from taking part in any military or pursuing careers that may put people in a position that may require any form of violence... that should count as encouraging minors to rebel against civil duties and was a sign of totalitarian extremism.

... Folks, it's 2018... people can be dangerous totalitarian extremists for being too pacifistic.

I'm done.

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