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Yeltsin Returns Bill to Parliament That Would Stifle Religious Groups

August 25, 1993
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Russian President Boris Yeltsin has sent back to Parliament a proposed law that threatened to stifle the ability of foreign religious groups to operate in Russia.

The bill, pushed by Russian Orthodox Church leaders, was said to be aimed primarily at the activities of evangelical Christians, members of the Hari Krishna sect and radical Muslims, who have encroached on spiritual territory the Orthodox Church sees as its own.

But Jewish groups have worried that their activities might be threatened as well.

Provisions of the bill, a series of amendments to Russia’s Law on Religion, would have required all foreign religious organizations to work under the authority of local groups and to be registered by the government.

The passage of the bill by the Russian Parliament in July engendered international condemnation, particularly by the American Christian community.

Yeltsin received thousands of letters from abroad, according to Leonid Stonov of the Union of Councils, an American-based advocacy group for Jews in the former Soviet Union.

Among the letters was one from Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), signed by an additional 160 members of the U.S. Congress.

“No one expected the reaction they got from the West,” said Mark Levin, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

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