Russia, which earlier this year was recommended to the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” regarding religious rights, now is being taken to an international human rights court over its treatment of a Baptist missionary, reports Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Russia is before the European Court of Human Rights over its decision to convict American Donald Jay Ossewaarde for his missionary activities and fine him more than $600.
The details come from the European Center for Law and Justice, which explained the case developed after the adoption in Russia in 2016 of several laws limiting what foreign missionaries and religious minorities can do there.
“The U.S. Baptist preacher, who has been living in Russia with his wife Ruth since 2005, had held weekly Bible meetings at his home in the city of Oryol, 300 kilometers south of Moscow, for many years,” the organization reported. “The Ossewaardes received a visit from three police officers on the morning of Sunday 14 August 2016, as they conducted a service. They requested that the police wait until the service had finished, after which they were driven to the local police station.”
Then Ossewaarde was taken straight to court, declared guilty and fined.
The judge claimed the conviction was legitimate since the missionary’s guilt was “fully proven, since he carried out missionary activity without submitting prior notice in writing of the beginning of the religious group’s activity.”
Ossewaarde argues that the law allows for “worship services, religious rites and ceremonies” in homes.
“This case occurs as multiple cases involving infringements of the right to freedom of worship and religion are being brought before the ECHR by religious communities that do not belong to the Orthodox Church, dominant in Russia. It also takes place in a controversial legal context after the Russian Federation has passed on July 2016 the Yarovaya laws, named after one of its co-authors. These laws, adopted by the state Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, restrict freedom of worship of religious minorities in Russia, without yet affecting the so-called ‘traditional’ religions. Protestant evangelical foreign missionaries like Donald J. Ossewaarde are de facto more specifically targeted,” ECLJ said.