Russia refuses to recognize Army’s request for official status
Captain Kenneth Baillie
A Moscow city appeals court in Russia recently turned down The Salvation Army’s plea for legal registration. The decision upheld the city of Moscow’s refusal to recognize the Army as a religious organization. If not overturned, the action could strip the Army of its legal existence in Moscow after December 31, 2000.
The Salvation Army has been ministering in the Moscow region since 1992, and has been fully registered all along, but in September 1997 a new Russian law required all religious organizations to re-register. This re-registration has been denied, despite nearly nine years of Christian service in the city, helping the hungry, the elderly and the needy. The Army now has six corps in Moscow, plus a range of social services.
The Salvation Army recommenced work in Russia in 1991 after having been proscribed in 1923. It presently has 21 corps, four outposts and a number of social ministries in 14 Russian cities. The Army is fully registered under the 1997 law in five cities in Russia; applications are pending in the others.
Moscow’s Ministry of Justice originally denied the Army’s application on August 16, 1999, basing its decision on interpretations of the 1997 law which are disputed by The Salvation Army, with it’s appeal based upon both the 1997 law and the Russian Federation constitution.
The Army regrets the Ministry’s action. “It appears to be arbitrary,” said Colonel Kenneth Baillie, officer commanding Russia/CIS. “Other religious groups have been granted registration, some without anything like the worldwide reputation we have for service to God and people.”
An appeal to the nation’s Supreme Court is being considered. At the same time, an application is going forward for the registration of the Army nationally. If Centralized Religious Organization status is granted by federal authorities, then the situation in Moscow might be resolved.
Meanwhile, Salvationists in Moscow are continuing their ministries. “We are not giving up,” said Baillie. “This is the Lord’s work. We believe he can intervene and overrule earthly authorities. We are praying and working with faith undaunted.”
From a SA International News Release