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Russia vs. Scientology: Kremlin Cracks Down on Controversial Church

A team of police officers stands by a yellow, colonnaded building in central Moscow. Close on their heels is a camera organisation from the Kremlin-controlled NTV station. As the officers pierce into the building, the NTV contributor turns to the camera. “There are many corridors here, lots of rooms,” he says in conspiratorial tone. “The doors are roughly all locked, so the officers will have to break them down.”

On cue, one of the balaclava-wearing officers revs adult a chain saw. With the roaring sound in the background, the shot switches to another male violation down several doors with a large sledgehammer. The viewer never sees behind the doors.

The Moscow Church of Scientology has turn used to such visits from law enforcement. This sold one took place in 2011. In January final year, the venue was searched again in connection to an review into the bootleg sale of land. And more recently, in August, military raided the venue in search of hidden cameras and microphones allegedly used by Scientology to spy on its members.

“It is partial of a media uncover to blacken the name,” says the founder of Scientology’s Moscow hook Vladimir Kuropyatnik. He sees the raids as partial of the authorities’ try to take down his church.

A New Religion

It was the early days of post-Soviet capitalism when Kuropyatnik, who had been lerned as a radio engineer, interviewed for a pursuit at a dilemma venture.

One of the recruiters was a Swedish businessman and, as Kuropyatnik schooled from corridor gossip, a Scientologist. “That male stood out from his Russian colleagues,” he says. “He was impeccably dressed, friendly, efficient and open.”

The Scientology movement, founded in 1954 by American scholarship novella author L. Ron Hubbard, was in rapid expansion at that moment, attracting supporters around the world. And wherever it went, debate and rumors of human rights abuses and tax semblance practices followed.

Kuropyatnik finished adult not holding the job, though he was amply intrigued by Scientology to join a seminar at Moscow State University on Dianetics, the self-help diagnosis complement devised by Hubbard that forms the basis of Scientological practice. He afterwards continued his Scientology studies in Copenhagen.

In 1994, a year after Scientology was famous as a religion in the United States following a protracted authorised dispute with the country’s taxation service, Kuropyatnik purebred Russia’s initial Church of Scientology in Moscow as a new religion.

“It was a difficult time,” he says. “I saw people’s gloomy, sleepy faces on the metro each day. Russia indispensable Scientology. Instead of providing the hungry with fish, it gave them a fishing rod to help them feed themselves.”

After decades of forced atheism underneath Stalin, Russians were primarily questionable of indulging in the spiritual. But with perestroika also came a renewed honesty toward new movements as a generation of reformers embraced the idea of religious plurality.

Scientology fast expanded. Today there are several thousand members in Moscow and several tens of thousands of active members opposite the country, according to Kuropyatnik’s estimates. The Church of Scientology in Moscow had 3 employees on the launch — it now has some-more than 300 people on staff and is a place bustling with activity.

Daily Miracles

Sunday use starts at 11 a.m. sharp. It is led by a prime lady with brief hair, dressed in a prolonged black dress with a golden V-shaped collar. Around her neck hangs an eight-corner cross, the symbol of Scientology.

“Miracles occur around me on a daily basis,” she says. “I have marinated people while they were sitting right in front of me in their chairs. I’ve even listened of a male who walked over intense embers.”

During the hour-long sermon, the woman reads from a “holy” book, and speaks of “salvation” and “sin.” The service ends with a prayer for human rights and religious leisure and a station acclaim to a bronze bust in the dilemma of the room — a bust of Scientology owner Hubbard. No discuss is done of Xenu, the galactic tyrant who, according to one of Hubbard’s some-more scandalous and secretive theories present in the media, forsaken billions of creatures into volcanoes on Earth and killed them with hydrogen bombs 75 million years ago.

Scientology has mostly been indicted by critics of using a strategy of “religious cloaking” to bypass state control over what is going on inside the walls. And doubt over the eremite standing exists even among some of its adherents. A former member of the Moscow Church of Scientology, who fled Russia after a dispute with the church’s care though is still a practising Scientologist, told The Moscow Times he had not attended use a single time during some-more than 10 years at the church. He said: “Even staff members of the church don’t entirely know because Scientology is a religion.”

Rivalry

According to Russia’s widespread religion, the Russian Orthodox Church, either Scientology is or isn’t a religion is not a subject for debate.

When the Orthodox Church resurfaced after decades of being forced subterraneous by the Soviet regime, it was reduction than gratified to find itself surrounded by “new religions” such as Scientology. In 1994, the Council of Russian Orthodox Bishops announced Scientology a “pseudo-religion alien from the West.”

Alexander Dvorkin, a former Soviet émigré and member of the Orthodox Church, in 1993 set adult an NGO to research “totalitarian sects and destructive cults.” He says he was stirred to action after witnessing the distress of churchgoers who had kin in Scientology. “Their families had been ripped apart,” he says.

Dvorkin became a leader of a destructive “anti-cult movement” and a distinguished figure in Russian media, where he has consistently warned of the dangers of so-called new religions. “Scientology is totally evil,” he says. “It oppresses people and draws some-more and more income out of them.”

As Russia’s family with the West soured over dispute in Ukraine, the battle opposite Scientology as a distinctly “foreign” transformation that poses a threat to Russian informative values has intensified. “In the context of trying to oppose the European Union and the United States, fortifying Russia’s informative and religious temperament has turn a way of showing patriotism,” says Veronika Kravchuk, a religious scholar.

Dvorkin, who attributes some of his success to his picture as someone who has knowledge abroad and can therefore interpret “foreign” cults,  has fed that comment by publicly warning of supposed ties between Scientology and the American tip services.

Political Backing

Dvorkin says his work has triggered a “typical opposite reaction” from the Church of Scientology. His mail has been hacked, he says, acquaintances from his past have been harassed, and he has been sued, unsuccessfully, for slander and received threats.

His core is not strictly connected to the Orthodox Church or the Kremlin, though it has the implicit subsidy of both. Dvorkin is also a member of an advisory row on religious affairs to Russia’s Justice Ministry, and acted as the authority for five years. “Politicians by now know that any tie to Scientology is a liability,” he says.

Several books created by Hubbard, along with Scientology training materials have been labelled nonconformist literature, and banned. And Scientology groups opposite Russia have not been authorised to register as eremite organizations.

In a final blow to the transformation in November, a Moscow justice ruled that the Moscow Church of Scientology can't call itself a religious organization, given Scientology is a registered U.S. trademark. The verdict, that Scientology has appealed, could have inclusive authorised implications. The church would no longer be authorised to employ staff, reason a bank comment or act as a headquarters for the movement. It would be the end of the Moscow Church of Scientology as it exists today.

Concerned with the ferocity of the clampdown, some eremite scholars are disturbed that the new manners of engagement criticise the atmosphere of religious leisure of the 1990s — to the advantage of Russia’s widespread religion. According to its Constitution, Russia is a secular country. But underneath the rule of President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has increasingly leaned on the church to promote the regressive agenda.

“The Russian Orthodox Church is perplexing to root out the ‘competitors’ with the help of the authorities,” says eremite academician Yekaterina Elbakyan. “By doing so, it is also creation itself partial of the supervision apparatus and making itself contingent on the state,” she says.

Lawlessness

With small trust in the Russian courts, Scientology groups have taken their means directly to the European Court of Human Rights. In all 3 cases listened by the court, the ECHR pronounced Russia had attempted to use a new law requiring movements to be comparison than 15 years to be authorised for registration as a religion to discriminate opposite Scientology groups in Russia.

That has done even critics of Scientology heedful of celebrating the passing in Russia. They disagree that governments should combine on building clever cases opposite Scientology on grounds of widely reported malpractice within the organization itself and use, rather than bend, the law.

“They still merit satisfactory diagnosis and I am not assured they are removing it in Russia,” says Jonny Jacobsen, a Paris-based publisher who has been study Scientology given the early 1990s.

“In Russia, Scientology has come face-to-face with an arbitrary complement steeped in bad faith, changing the rules whenever expedient: season that irony,” he wrote.

The standoff between Russia and the West also means that the ECHR can no longer perform the purpose as a watchdog, after a new law was upheld giving Russian courts the right to overrule general courts’ decisions.

Kuropyatnik, meanwhile, is certain the church will survive, even if it loses the standing as a religion. “The domestic atmosphere, and rabid fights opposite eremite freedoms come and go. But the church will stay,” he says.

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/563722.html

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