Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation this week that severely restricts freedom of religion by prohibiting any religious speech or evangelization outside of places of worship.
“This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929. At that time confession of faith was permitted only in church,” said Dr. Hannu Haukka, president of Great Commission Media Ministries, reports National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). “Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history.”
Archbishop Andrew Maklakov, administrator of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America, said: “As the Russian Federation has drifted back to its Soviet roots more and more over the past 25 years, it has increasingly sought to harass, persecute, and destroy any religious organization that it might consider competition to its own ‘state church.”
The new law, which goes into effect July 20, is actually an amendment to a package of laws against terrorism and extremism approved by the Russian Parliament’s upper chamber. As a result of the legislation, faith sharing in homes, in the media, online, or any place other than a government recognized church is prohibited.
The measure is expected to especially affect evangelical groups and Jehovah’s Witnesses who often share faith in homes rather than traditional churches.
In a column at the Daily Signal, U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) wrote the new law is “an affront to free people everywhere.”
“We need to begin telling the truth about an increasingly aggressive actor in global affairs,” he said. “This Russian law would be an affront to free people everywhere—at home and abroad—who believe that rights of conscience—the rights to free speech and to freedom of religion—are pre-political.”