The Waking Up From Organized Religion

Often our religious beliefs are handed down to us by family and culture, and by the time we are old enough to consciously choose, it’s too late because we are already brainwashed with pre-ordained beliefs that seem to be set in stone.

Ideally, the true purpose of any religion should be to facilitate a direct connection with the “Divine,” and to support spiritual awakening.

Unfortunately, few, if any religions, fulfill this purpose. If they did, many more of us would be awake by now, or at least intimately connected to the Source of who we really are. Even with the prevalence of “new age” spiritual practices today, few of us have attained full spiritual awakening and direct Divine connection.

What’s wrong with this picture…?

Maybe that answer lies in the reasons why humanity seeks out religion, or structured spirituality, in the first place…

Seeking the answers to the unknown can be a scary business:
where do we come from, why are we here, and especially, where do we go after departing?
The further we travel down the “rabbit hole” in our quest for spiritual truth, the more lonely, confusing and frightening it can become.

Religion preys on this fear and confusion:
by providing premade answers designed to give us a false sense of security, it offers a reprieve from that inner quest

in exchange for that spiritual crutch, we must give up spiritual sovereignty and the freedom to choose our own beliefs
We must give up the very thing it saves us from – finding our true selves.

It was quite convincing, but something inside me said, it just wasn’t true…

My long and relentless search for spiritual truth delivered me to a sacred space that was, not surprisingly, void of all religion and the imprisoning dogma that keeps one from discovering the truth for oneself.

Why is it that religions often keep us from the very thing they should be doing?

Instead of empowering us to a full connection with the Divine and supporting us to Wake Up and remember who we really are, they keep us asleep, buried under piles of disempowering beliefs that they programmed into our vulnerable minds.

If we are fighting to prove that we are worthy of God’s love or we must depend on a “go-between” (priest, rabbi, guru etc…) in order to communicate with God,
How can we ever attain a deep spiritual connection with the Divine?

Programming Religion

Most religions operate through mechanisms of control, but often the dynamic of control is so covert that you cannot recognize it, and if you cannot recognize it, you might easily fall for the religion’s sales pitch.

Or if you are a long time follower, leaving the religion can be like extracting yourself from emotional quicksand.

Most religions, and even some spiritual practices, keep people asleep through a program of shame and secrecy.

The program includes an ingenious control formula, based on disempowering beliefs, such as unworthiness, powerlessness, judgment and exclusion, all resulting in painful and debilitating emotions that can last a life time.

Installing Beliefs

Most religions install beliefs about “right and wrong,” “good and bad” and “sinful and saintly,” causing followers to believe that their well-being or salvation is dependent on their behavior, and if they disobey, they are judged and punished with the equivalent of karma or an eternal afterlife of unwanted proportions, but that is not even the worst part!

The defiance of your religious beliefs automatically invokes feelings of shame, guilt, obligation or regret. These feelings, or the fear of these feelings, can be a more powerful deterrent than even the threat of physical torture.

The deepest part of the control mechanism is through manipulating emotions, so that you actually punish yourself.

For example, if your religion says that it is wrong to have sex outside of marriage, and you have pre-marital sex, you will automatically punish yourself through feelings of deep shame, guilt, regret and unworthiness.

In fact, if you even think about going against the religious doctrine, these powerful emotions will induce feelings of impending regret, and make you think twice.

The same goes for things like regular “attendance”, tithing/donations and any other conditions or requirements of your religion.

Your fear of feeling guilt or regret controls your behavior and makes you do things that maybe aren’t right for you, or maybe keeps you from expressing your real self.

The thing is, if you are emotionally manipulated, how can you even know what is best for you? Only through free-will can you ever be inspired by your own inner being.

Because the control is coming from inside you, in the form of your own beliefs and emotions, you probably don’t even realize that you are being controlled, which is what makes this type of control even more diabolical than if someone threatened you with a knife.

When you can identify an external control source, it is clear that you are being controlled, but when you have been willingly programmed with beliefs, and these beliefs are causing painful emotions, it is almost impossible to discern that an external source is in control of your life.

Taking Advantage of the Young and Vulnerable

Most people are programmed with religious beliefs either when they are too young to question those beliefs or at a very vulnerable time in their lives.

For example, people seek spiritual answers when they are experiencing emotional pain or confusion.

Religions feed off this, and even take advantage of this vulnerability, seducing seekers with the promise of security and comfort, for this life and maybe even the afterlife.

Sacrificing Power in Exchange for Salvation

Most religions ask that you give away your power, and that you trust the religion and its leaders more than you trust yourself. You are taught that in order to connect with the Divine, you must depend on non-physical deities, or religious leaders.

If you want a prayer answered or you seek forgiveness, you must use a “go-between” because you are not worthy, or pure enough, for direct communion with the Divine.

Worst of all, the message is,
“Don’t trust yourself,”
…and, as long as you don’t trust yourself, you remain powerless to external authority.

Ruled by Conditional Worth

In most religions, there is an unspoken decree of worthiness that all practitioners agree to.

Your worth is dependent on how well you follow the rules of your religion – if you do as you are told, according to your religion, or your religious leader, you are deemed worthy, and if you go against, or question the rules or beliefs, you are deemed unworthy.

Unworthiness induces deep feelings of shame which leads to secrecy.

Use of Judgment

The fear of being judged, shamed or the subject of gossip is commonly used to keep followers in line, creating secrecy and keeping followers from sharing their “indiscretions” with each other.

Because judgment feels like death to the ego, we will do almost anything in order to avoid being judged.

As a result, everyone pretends to be a good follower, while secretly hiding any “bad behavior,” and, because no one is sharing openly, it appears that everyone else is saintly, making it impossible for you to speak your truth.

No Room for Doubt or Questions

If you believe that your fellow practitioners will ostracize you, or report you to religious leaders, you will not likely share any feelings of doubt about the religion or its leaders…

You will silently keep your questions or uncertainty to yourself, never knowing that your friend, neighbor or family member feels the same way.

Judgment, and fear of being judged, supports division.

As the saying goes,
“Divide and conquer,”
,,,and, at all costs, keep those already conquered from coming together in rebellion.

Silence and separation allow religious agendas to operate unnoticed.

Exclude Non-Believers

What about the threat of non-believers that are not part of the religion?

Often, followers are well-trained in converting non-believers, with programmed answers for any, and all, objections that might come from the one they are trying to convert.

Followers are often taught how to prey upon vulnerabilities, with promises of salvation, but, if that doesn’t work, the non-believer is viewed negatively, cast aside as ignorant and excluded.

This type of righteousness, where the believer is right and the non-believer is wrong, is just another form of judgment and exclusion in the name of God.

The motto often is:
“Either believe and join us or be excluded and judged as sinner.”
I am not saying that you should leave your religion, or even think about it – that is not the point.

The point is, if you want to awaken to the truth of who you really are, you must free yourself from disempowerment. This means taking back your power from everyone and everything – including religion.

It might seem easy to blame a religion for keeping you powerless, asleep, or disconnected but religions only exist because we seek answers outside of ourselves.

From the deepest perspective, religions are set up to fail you, so that eventually, you will look in the only place where you can ever find the answers you seek:
Deep inside…
Religion says, “You are unworthy unless you meet certain conditions.”

Awakening reveals, “You are unconditionally worthy.”

Religion says, “You are powerless to external sources.”

Awakening reveals, “Your power is accessed as you take responsibility for your life.”

Religion separates, judges and excludes.

Awakening and Oneness are synonymous.
In awakening, you remember that who you really are is the Divine, and if you judge yourself, or others, you are really judging ‘God’…

How do you know if your religion or spiritual practice supports spiritual empowerment, Divine connection and spiritual awakening?

Most importantly, your religion or spiritual practice should work for you, and only you can decide what that means, but here are some suggestions for you to consider:
Your spiritual practice gives you freedom, and space, to find your own answers, even if those answers disagree with the spiritual teachings.

You are not judged, punished or excluded for thinking differently, or questioning ideas.

Your spiritual practice moves you toward love and oneness, providing the space for you to forgive yourself and others, as you let go of old heavy baggage which no longer serves you.

The spiritual teachings uplift you to new heights of awareness, while also inspiring you to express yourself.

Spiritual beliefs are offered through lessons of empowerment, and not through fear of karma, punishment or any form of disempowerment, nor should you be manipulated through guilt, obligation, or impending regret.

Your spiritual teacher does not encourage dependency on him or her, tell you what to do, how to think or make other spiritual teachings wrong or less than.

You are not asked to judge, reject or exclude others in order to remain in the religion, nor are you punished for loving those who don’t obey the rules of your religion.

You feel honored and respected by your teacher and peers, and you never feel as if the teacher, or spiritual practice, has power over you, or that your worthiness is in question.

Your practice empowers you to discover who you really are, and supports you in developing an intimate and personal relationship with the Divine, where you experience yourself as unconditionally loved.

If your intention is spiritual awakening, your spiritual practice must not only empower you to discover the door of awakening, it must also encourage you to let go so that you can enter. In order to fully awaken, you must be willing to let go of even the sacred practice that got you there.
The bottom line is,
Does your spiritual practice direct you inward?
Does it make you feel closer to the Divine?
Does it empower you?

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

If you have left your religion, or you are thinking of leaving, don’t confuse leaving the religion with leaving ‘God’.

Just as the saying goes,
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,”
…don’t throw God out with the religion.

God has been tainted by all sorts of disempowering beliefs – from crazy rules to unreasonable nonsense and everything in between. You can leave all that behind and you can find God on your own terms, in a way that feels particularly right for you.

Losing community

Sometimes we stay in a religion well past its expiration date because if we leave, it probably also means that we must leave our community.

Tolerating rules and dogma that no longer fit for us might seem like a small price to pay in exchange for the love and support of community, but that price is much higher than it appears.

If you are,
compromising your freedom
hiding your true feelings
constricting your expression in order to be accepted in a community,
…sooner or later, you will likely experience deep spiritual wounds that arise from betraying your own true spirit.

Yes, there might be a period of time where you don’t have the support of community, but I promise, your most ideal community is out there somewhere waiting for you.

A massive wave of people all over the world are waking up, and leaving situations and environments that no longer fit. Just like you, they are looking for that place where they belong.

It is time to come together to form empowering paradigms of community where we can all thrive, and be who we came here to be…

The Truth Versus Hoax About The Crusades

Truth versus hoax about the Crusades: Christians defend the Turkish atrocities and slavery. Contemporary Islam is something similar. The idea of the Crusades is dead?


This article debunk rumors about the crusaders as the “first imperialistic” in the Middle East, and explains that historical hoaxes are not random

The theme of the Crusades now comes to life in the context of Islamic fundamentalism. Radical Muslim circles indicate military action in Iraq and Afghanistan “drag”, cross-novověkým suicide bombing fanatics in New York, Madrid and London are often presented some aggressive mohamedánskými by clerics as “revenge for the crusade”. Medieval kruciáty have since the Enlightenment, something wrong with sticker and underhanded. In the history books, the following actions are evaluated negatively as a manifestation of will, cruelty, intolerance and expansiveness of the then Catholic Church. But what is the reality?

Defense of the Holy places and the pilgrims

First, it is necessary to establish who was the aggressor and who resisted. Under General clichés were medieval crusade 11.-13. century. war actions against the Turks in the great, so called Saracénům, who occupied Palestine, including the places connected with the life of Jesus Christ, and therefore precious each of this.

The Crusader wars were wars of defence against aggression was used to protect the defenseless Turks and Palestinian Christians and pilgrims. Catholic Europe was not the aggressor, by contrast, were the early Turkish, which is clearly right to say

This basic historical lesson of bears but in itself the germ of lies. Indeed, the idea that induces the Christians they did not hesitate to flood the entire region with the blood in the name of their religiously motivated claim to Palestine. In fact, already in the 7. century. Muslim Arabs conquered the Holy land. The contemporary Christian world didn’t object when these rulers were mohamedánští to residents of Licinius Christians there, and allow European Catholics held pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

So it worked without problems up to the 11. century. Christian Europe not to take any military actions in Palestine and respect the Muslim administrative control over it. In 11. century. but the changed circumstances. Muslim Arabs from Palestine were also forced out the Muslim Turks. Christian pilgrims and Palestinian Christians have occurred in bad times. The Turks attacked and is sold into slavery, in which a better case. At worst, he is bullied and murdered. In addition, the Turkish Sultan led the old war against Byzantium, and it was her Emperor Alexios i. Komnen, who, though Orthodox, turned for help to the Pope and the Catholic West.


Pope Urban II blessed.  

Pope Urban II blessed. r. 1095 convened a synod to the French Forces. There were bishops of familiar for the Byzantines, which joined the hermit harangued, who had to emigrate from Palestine, because his life was at stake. All gatherings were shaken by their cruelty, that terrifying funniest Turks committed Christians. They Usekávali hands and feet, women were raped. The Pope responded by proclaiming a crusade to defend the life of Christian pilgrims and Palestinian Christians, rather than giving priority to re-conquer the Palestine, as they can often be found in the literature.

The legitimacy of the Crusades


That’s a huge difference. Crusader quest, known for Urban II was ethically absolutely justified, given that its motivation was not in an attempt to conquer some territory of the paramount, but in protecting the lives and health of the weak and defenseless of the pilgrims and Christians in Palestine, issued bestiálnímu cruelty, murder and taking into slavery. This was an act of love for his fellow man, which is in charge to take to defend the weak and innocent against the aggressor in his hand and the gun if they are exhausted all peaceful means. For something like that is the Catholic Church certainly has nothing to apologize for.


But the truth is that after the capture of Jerusalem, 1099 r. occurred by the victorious Crusaders to unnecessary bloodshed. It would be against the intentions of Pope Urban II, who wished the merciful approach. His successor Paschal II. According to the testimony of some contemporary chroniclers expressed regret over it, even if it did not hide their joy over the recovery of the Holy places. However, even here it is necessary to defend against overstating this certainly sad fact. Jerusalem, the Crusaders did not give up and it was a common practice of the time, surviving even from paganism, that in this case, did the winners to the physical liquidation of the civilian population. The Church often in vain for mercy and said an investigation of innocent lives.

In the case of the conquest of Jerusalem, but it remains the unanswered question, if the Crusaders really killing the civilian population, including women and children, or if he killed the man, who fought back with a gun in his hand. Contemporary chroniclers speak grandly about “streams of blood”, without specify event. Serious historians are leaning toward the other version because even after the publication of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem remained mostly Muslim city of Jerusalem and the Mohammedans have enjoyed religious freedom. When the Sultan Saladin r. 1183 again conquered Jerusalem and captured the last Catholic King Quida, local Muslims and called for the return of this Christian monarch.


St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The shady sites, in particular the first and second crusades (there were a total of seven), including bashing of Jewish ghettos, forced baptisms of Jews and their murders. However, these crimes nepáchalo the Crusader army, but the mob, consisting of adventurers and criminals, who foresaw an opportunity to enrich and create different pseudooddíly would-be volunteers. Against their killing spree issued sharp Bull most Popes 12. century, to defend the Jews spoke also of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.


SV. Bernard of Clairvaux

Also, you cannot defend the aggression of the Venetians, the organizers of the 4. the Crusades who r. # 1201 to Palestine to Constantinople, arranging accounts with its longtime enemy-Byzantium. After the sack of Constantinople declared the so-called “there. Latin Empire. Pope Innocenc III. However, the Act sharply denounced and banned violent re-catholicisation process of Orthodox Greeks.

Failures of the Crusaders after the fall of Jerusalem to the Turks contributed to the spread of naive opinions that what generals did not achieve, can achieve the Holy and innocent souls, preferably children. Took some criminals, trading with the Turks, who supply young slaves and slave. You have organized the r. 1212 called. the children’s crusade (was never recognised as a good crusade) and nothing that they failed to heed Pope Innocenc III. such an undertaking has forbidden under penalty of excommunication. Ships brought children who in the Holy enthusiasm wanted to fight for the liberation of the Holy Sepulchre, in fact mohamedánských vezírů into slavery and Caliphs. However, the ships had failed during a storm, part of the children died, she fell into the hands of the Muslim part of slavery, part managed to save and return back to their families.

The Crusades were certainly huge shallow of spirit of the Christian middle ages. It must raise a real admiration and enthusiasm of thousands of nobles of ordinary farmers, who in the name of Christ were willing to sacrifice everything, even his own life. Something similar to modern period had almost not being able to. Great respect they deserve, and all those who have this sense of the sacrifice of the people raised and led, whether a number of precious Popes or saints of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.


The French King St. Louis IX

St. Louis IX and his “charity”

In the end, however, the Divine Providence has shown another path, as is evident by the example of the French King St. Louis IX, the Commander of the 7. and the last crusade. She too was unsuccessful, King Louis had fallen into captivity in Egypt. Redeemed, but did not return home because he remained in the Middle East as a private person, to find out the number of Christians who have fallen into slavery by Muslims. Send email from France’s left money to redeem all of the losers in the end and allow them to return to Europe. God so eventually this Holy King presented a different solution than he originally intended – instead military expedition commissioned him a generous charitable actions.

Catholic Christianity is certainly has nothing to be ashamed of the idea of the Crusades. One can only regret that eventually join other motivation, which undermined the whole idea of the sublime. The secular rulers who all militarily organized, often followed other interests than the liberation of the Holy places and the protection of the defenseless against the savagery of the Turks. Here is the reason for the failure of this grand and ethical page good initiatives.

Catholic Europe was not the aggressor

The Crusades brought also in regard to the positives and negatives of culture. To those first is undoubtedly contact with the Oriental world. From the Arabs took over Christian Europe interested in Aristotle’s philosophy, which became the basis for thinking the greatest geniuses of the middle ages St. Peter. Albert the great and St. John. Thomas Aquinas, further deepened their knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and the natural sciences. At the same time but have penetrated into Europe’s superstition and theological delusions. Considerably widened the astrology and fortune telling, also revived under the influence of Oriental thought import Manichean idea of the good and the evil deity, which found its expression in the delusion of a sect of albigenských, that God and the devil are equal.

The idea of the Crusades was definitely not something negative in the history of the Church, especially not by the term ‘ European and Catholic imperialism against the mohamedánskému of the world “, as it is constantly repeated by enlightened times. The Crusader wars were wars of defence against aggression was used to protect the defenseless Turks and Palestinian Christians and pilgrims. Catholic Europe was not the aggressor, by contrast, were the early Turkish, which is the need to clearly tell offhand. Regret, and to some extent also to condemn it is necessary to other targets and the organizers of the Crusades and the associated with them which led to the above can’t be physically proved.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses Extremist Views


Shunning: The JWs are not permitted to speak to family or friends who leave the religion. They are taught that ExJWs are “Satanic”, and “partaking of the table of demons”.

Disfellowshipping: A member of JWs can get expelled (disfellowshipped) if they accept a life saving blood transfusion. If one accepts such treatment, they will be shunned unless they live under the same roof of a JW family member.

Apostasy: If a JW leaves the religion by way of formal disassociation letter, they will be shunned unless they return.

Pedophilia Coverups: The organization has been found guilty of hiding over 1000 pedophiles in their private files, and have forced abused children to face their abusers. The Australian Royal Commission brought Governing Body member Geoffrey Jackson on the stand, who denied that he knew about the situation. JWs have also been warned on occasions against going to police with any such allegations, due to the “image” that could be destroyed as “God’s Organization”.

Bunker Videos: The JWs have released videos of acted scripts which place themselves in bunkers during a catastrophic event known as Armageddon. Bombs go off, and no one knows what’s going on outside. The mini movie portrays that the only ones who are saved are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those who strayed from the cult are depicted as doomed. The actors tell each other stories and badmouth former JWs who could’ve been safe if they had only stayed in Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Children’s Videos: The infamous Caleb and Sofia videos are cartoons shown to Jehovah’s Witness kids. In one video, a child called Caleb is seen playing with a toy wizard called “Sparlock the Warrior Wizard”. The mother in the cartoon tells the child that Satan wants him to play with those kinds of toys. A serpent is shown hissing around the child’s head in a dark room. The child throws the toy in the garbage out of “obedience to Jehovah”. Terror is consequently provoked in the minds of small children watching such a video, which in turn gives the Jehovah’s Witness Society control over the child’s mind at an early age.

Intolerance of churches: The Jehovah’s Witnesses adamantly refuse to step foot in other churches, believing them to be demonized. This includes weddings and funerals of friends, relatives, or loved ones.

Persecution: The religion believes that anyone who disagrees with them are persecuting them. This includes allegations of sexual abuse, rape, and crime. They typically deny any and all accusations of any wrongdoing, blaming former JWs for starting “rumors” and spreading lies.

Isolation: The Jehovah’s Witnesses are strongly advised against associating with anyone who is not a JW. This includes other Christians who will not become JWs, or even people who smoke.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses claims what happens when a JW gets found guilty of sin, and is disfellowshipped. “Sin” includes questioning the elders or the doctrines of JWs and it’s Idol to be worshipped Governing Body.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses website claims they can prove they are not extremist, because they have been around for 100 years.The Jehovah’s Witnesses religion practices which have resulted in deaths, suicides, mental and emotional damage, division of families, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, custody battles, crimes, and financial devastation.

There are many more extremist views that may be found in the teachings and history of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society. 

The Russian Federation Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses Because Of Several Violations Of The Law and Refusal To Correct Them


On Thursday, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses was an “extremist” organization after the justice ministry applied for an order to shut down the group’s national headquarters near St Petersburg, Russian TASS news agency reported. Russian authorities had put several of the group’s publications on a list of banned extremist literature, and prosecutors have long cast it as an organization that destroys families, fosters hatred and threatens lives, a description the organization says is false.

In its lawsuit the Justice Ministry mentioned various violations, exposed by a snap check of the organization’s activities, including those of the federal law on resistance to extremist activities. The Justice Ministry wanted the organization and its 395 local chapters to be declared as extremist and outlawed and its properties to be confiscated.

The Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses told TASS it found this affair very worrisome, because a future decision would concern 175,000 practicing believers. ACJW spokesman Ivan Bilenko said the organization was prepared to seek protection of its rights in courts of any instance.

A court in Moscow on October 12, 2016 warned Jehovah’s Witnesses over what it ruled was extremist activities. Under Russian legislation the religious organization in question is to be closed down if it fails to eliminate the exposed violations within the required deadline or if new evidence of its extremist activities come to light. The Moscow City Court on January 16, 2017 upheld the warning over extremism handed to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Concluding Words:

Every country has its own laws and if law requires any religion should change their organization rules if government asks for or basically warning if you guys don’t change rules and behavior then you going to be banned.

That was at least in two court cases Russian authorities warned Jehovah’s Witnesses to correct violations however Watchtower organization acts like superior over any human beings and refuse to do anything or nothing about it.

When you loose Court cases and refuse correct anything then you going to be punished and imprisoned for it!Such a implementation of laws works in any country.I hope this is going to be be lesson for Jehovah’s Witnesses or again they will refuse correct anything and that will be happening to them again in different countries in this world.Shalom.

The Russian Supreme Court Case To Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses (Day 6)


April 20, 2017 –Today’s proceedings is in the format of a debate. The Ministry of Justice presents their reasons for banning Jehovah’s Witnesses and liquidating all of their assets, namely the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in St. Petersburg and the 395 LROs scattered throughout the country.

13:15 The courtroom of the Supreme Court gradually filled with spectators. There was a feelings of nervousness and restrained excitement. The parties were preparing their speeches to deliberate in the debate.

13:50 Most of the seats were filled by this time.

14:09 The hearings begin. Omelchenko made a quick petition to attach a statement from the European Union on the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia to the case materials. In it, the European Union said that “the statement of March 15, filed by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation in the Supreme Court, is the last severe measure taken in its fight against Jehovah’s Witnesses and these prosecutions they are subjected to in Russia is a further increase in violations of their rights which contradicts international standards in the field of freedom of religion or belief.” The court asked how this statement could affect the outcome of the day’s proceedings. Omelchenko said that this is evidence of a violation of Article 18 of the European Convention. Although the European Union is not a body of the Council of Europe, it was made at a meeting of the Council of Europe. The court refuses to attach the document.

14:15 The court started the debate. The Ministry of Justice representative made her case.

14:16 The Ministry of Justice drew attention to the fact that Russia adheres to the principle of the rule of law. The law on freedom of conscience provides a framework. The Ministry of Justice drew attention to the fact that the very name of the Center, the “Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia,” indicates that the centralized organization exercises control over the LROs. The Ministry of Justice drew attention to the leading role of the Administrative Center in its interactions with the LROs. The Administrative Center agrees on the issues related to the appointment of the chairmen of the LROs, etc. Organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are a holistic organism. They are characterized by organizational unity. References to the canonical connection by the Ministry of Justice are inconclusive.

14:25 According to the Ministry of Justice representative, the face that the defendant continues to claim that there was planting of extremist materials indicates that the Administrative Center does not repent of its extremist activities.

14:28 The Ministry of Justice representative continued: Although many religions express some sort of relationship with secular authorities, the texts of Jehovah’s Witnesses contain prohibitively insulting ways of expressing the truth of their beliefs. Extremists do not recognize quotes from the bible, but rather their interpretation of what is written in the bible.

14:35 The Ministry of Justice believed that the numerous court decisions made in connection with what materials they recognized as extremist should have given the Administrative Center enough of an opportunity to determine what literature not to import into the country.

14:35 The fact is, according to the Ministry of Justice, over the last 25 years, the Administrative Center had imported materials that were later recognized as extremist.

14:38 The Ministry of Justice believes that because “extremist” (as applied to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature) is placed within quotation marks in the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are being cynical of the matter – despite the fact that the courts’ decisions to recognize extremist literature had entered into legal force.

14:40 Summing up, the Ministry of Justice representative, as before, asks to liquidate the Administrative Center, all the LROs and confiscate all of their property – without waiting for the court’s decision to put it into legal force.

14:42 Omelchenko, on behalf of the defendant, the Administrative Center, began his speech in the debate.

14:45 Omelchenko analyzed the non-legal nature of the Ministry of Justice’s generalization that the various organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are supposed to be a single organization “with structural units”.

14:50 Omelchenko cited the norms of legislation on countering extremism. The law does not provide for such extremist actions as “an act in the form of inaction”, “an act committed inadvertently, by imprudence”. The Supreme Court of Russia has repeatedly pointed out that extremism can only be active actions aimed at violent change of the foundations of the constitutional system.

15:02 According to Omelchenko, the plaintiff’s representative gave their own interpretation of what extremism is in the debate. However, the defendant recalled that the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation give legal interpretation. And these courts ruled that “inciting hatred and propaganda of social, racial, national, religious superiority, whose existence should be determined taking into account all the significant circumstances of each particular case, namely the form and content of activities or information, their addressees and the target audience , Socio-political context, the existence of a real threat, including calls for unlawful attacks on constitutionally protected values, or justification of their commission.”

“Restriction through the anti-extremist legislation of freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of speech and the right to disseminate information should not take place in relation to any activity or information on the sole ground that they do not fit into generally accepted notions or are not consistent with established traditional views and opinions, come into conflict with moral or religious preferences. Anything else would mean a deviation from the constitutional requirement of necessity, proportionality and justice by restricting the rights and freedoms of man and citizen.”

15:13 Omelchenko: The actions of the Ministry of Justice do not pursue a legitimate aim, they bear all signs of political repression. “I ask that the plaintiff’s complaints not be met but be refused completely.”

15:16 Lawyer Chenkov spoke in the debate. He began with his personal impression of the last few days. He found himself in one of Moscow’s parks and saw that dozens of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to this park. They did not have any posters and they did not come out to protest the lawsuit that began in the Supreme Court on April 5, 2017. They went out to clean up the garbage that had accumulated over the winter. So who are these people? Extremists or good Christians?

15:20 The Ministry of Justice has demanded to take all the buildings of worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, built by believers at their own expense. This happened only once in Russia, namely, a hundred years ago, in 1918. At that time, the Council of the People’s Commissars decreed that all property be taken away, including the religious buildings of the Russian Orthodox Church.

15:27 Zhenkov: The Ministry of Justice suggested that Jehovah’s Witnesses, through despair, said that the cases against them were falsified. However, believers do not despair, notes Chenkov. They believe the words of the Bible that there is nothing secret that would not become obvious. And everyone will bear responsibility before God for their deeds. Just the other day, on April 17, 2017, the President of the Russian Federation approved an amendment to Article 303 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, now provides for criminal liability for falsifying evidence in administrative cases However, the problem of falsifications should concern not only the President, but all of the executive bodies, such as the Ministry of Justice (Justice in Latin means justice).

15:35 In this case there are dozens of certificates: gratitude, not only for the improvement of the country, but for an active life position, for helping those affected by natural disasters, for helping Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) from the territory of Ukraine, for helping orphanages, for improving the leisure center for children with disabilities, for participation in the marathon “Help the child”, etc. “Is it so that the organization is both useful and dangerous?” Chenkov is perplexed.

15:40 Chenkov analyzed the testimony of witnesses, both from the plaintiff’s side and from the defendant’s side.

15:45 The lawyer drew attention to expert opinions on the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Why do I stop at literature again? Because literature, recognized as extremist, is the only complaint against Jehovah’s Witnesses in carrying out extremist activities.”

15:46 Chenkov: “In this room, there was a man who was born in prison. Because his mother was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment when she was 5 months pregnant as an enemy of the state just because she was a Jehovah’s Witness. She gave birth in prison, and he spent two years in a prison orphanage. His father could not take him, because he was exiled to Siberia. In 1991, the state recognized the mother as a victim of political repression, apologized to her, and provided her with a pension. And here in court this person, who was born in prison, approached me and asked: “Does the Ministry of Justice wish to repeat this terrible story?”. And I did not know what to say. I still do not know what moves the representatives of the Ministry of Justice and those who direct this process.

15:50 Chenkov: “What will happen if the court satisfies the request of the Ministry of Justice? Respected court, if this is the will of the state, then the country successfully acquires 170 thousand prisoners of conscience and a corresponding reputation. If the state’s will is to comply with the law, then the court’s decision can be only one thing – to refuse the Ministry of Justice’s complaint against the Administrative Center. ”

15:52 Toporov spoke in the debate. “Blaming Jehovah’s Witnesses for extremism is like blaming an infant of extremism. Only an infant is not able to commit extremist activity because of his age, nor are Jehovah’s Witnesses due to their religious worldview. For them, calls for any kind of violence against people, violent actions, enmity and hatred towards people by any indication are serious sins against God.”

16:02 Speaking about the independence of the LRO, Toporov refers to the Charter of the Administrative Center. LROs are endowed with the absolute right, without taking into account the will of the Administrative Center, to determine the term of their presence in the said structure, to resolve issues of liquidation, transfer to other centralized religious organizations, etc. “The Administrative Center does not have the right to liquidate the LRO, as it is not their founder … What is this structural unit?” – asks Toporov.

16:12 Concluding his speech, Toporov cited the statement of human rights activist L. Alekseeva in its entirety. In the end, he says: “You, the respected court, it is you, here and today, can eliminate injustice and dishonesty towards hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens, restore their good name, strengthen confidence in the law on countering extremism, clearly showing the difference between these extremists and Extremists drawn on paper. We hope that the court will have the courage to do this and make a fair and impartial decision, guided by the law and the gift from God – a human conscience. ”

16:13 Novakov was next to speak in the debate. He drew attention to the fact that due to the suspension of activities, believers throughout the country were subjected to massive violations of rights: law enforcement officers invaded the services and copied personal data of citizens who had not committed any offense. The police officers carried out illegal detentions by bringing them into custody, personal searches, videotaping of persons. Administrative cases are raised, warnings are made about the possibility of criminal prosecution under Article 282 of the Criminal Code.

16:16 Referring to the increase in violations of rights, Novakov said: “Moreover, if the Court makes a decision on liquidation, this will produce even more tragic consequences throughout the country. Any Jehovah’s Witness may be considered an extremist with all the ensuing consequences: widespread religious violence against Witnesses: from destruction and damage to property and attacks, to causing serious harm to health and killing peaceful religious citizens on the grounds of religious hatred. At an international level, blame for the condoning of violence and prosecution for far-fetched circumstances will be assigned to state authorities in Russia. ”

16:32 Novakov recalled that the Ministry of Justice representative accused Jehovah’s Witnesses of cynicism in her debate. “I’ll tell you what cynicism is,” Novakov said. “When the Ministry of Justice in the first trial of the LRO says that the rights af the Administrative Center are not affected, but then makes those court decisions as the basis for the elimination of the Administrative Center. Or when the Ministry of Justice perceives much more harsh statements against Jehovah’s Witnesses as “ordinary criticism”, while calling “extremism” those statements that are far from extremism. When, contrary to the available data, the Ministry of Justice dismisses reports of falsification, it does not dare to cite cases when falsification is clearly fixed on the video. “That’s what cynicism is!” Novakov concluded.

16:40 Cherepanove next spoke in the debate. He believed that if the court left Jehovah’s Witnesses to exist legally, Russia will not only not suffer damage, but on the contrary will improve its reputation both inside the country and in the international arena. Decisions against Jehovah’s Witnesses have been appealed to the ECHR and the UN Human Rights Committee.

16:45 “We have had good cooperation with the Justice Ministry for decades,” said Cherepanov. “I think the Justice Ministry should feel in a sense our defender, he registered us!” Addressing to the representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Cherepanov said: “Let’s be friends! Do not become a punitive body. We do not want to sue you, we ask that you help us, and do not look for a reason to close us. ”

16:47 Cherepanov spoke about the problem of denigrating the good name of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the media. Various crimes had been attributed towards them, for example, “weaning apartments.” Proving the falsity of this myth, Cherepanov recallsedthe biblical commandment “Do not covet someone else’s wife”.

16:50 “The strength of a powerful state is precisely to protect the interests of the minority, because the majority will stand for itself.”

16:55 Kalin spoke next: “The Ministry of Justice not only humiliates itself and its functions, but humiliates the entire state in the eyes of the international community. If a respected representative of the Ministry of Justice has personal convictions that Jehovah’s Witnesses are extremists, I’m very sorry. If the representative of the Ministry of Justice was a victim of the circumstances in which he fell into, and is forced to perform just the role of accuser, I am also sorry. But in either case you will have to answer before your own conscience. ”

16:56 Kalin recalled one’s responsibility before God and said: “I take this opportunity to issue a warning to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice. Please, come to your senses! Please, come to your senses! ”

17:00 Both sides exchanged remarks.

17:01 The Ministry of Justice representative recalled that the essence of the complaint is to liquidate a legal entity; the Justice Ministry does not make complaints against individuals. The Justice Ministry reminded the court of the testimony of one of the witnesses of the plaintiff who was expelled from the religious community. The Ministry of Justice considered this a violation of the rights of citizens. In response, Chenkov recalled that at one time the Russian Orthodox Church excommunicated the writer L. Tolstoy. In our time, the ROC refused to cancel the decision on excommunication, despite the petitions for this. This is an internal matter of the church. Chenkov asked whether the Ministry of Justice intended to present any demands to the ROC.

17:09 The court retires to the advisory room.

17:18 The courtroom is filled with television journalists.

18:25 The court is still in the advisory room. The courtroom awaits the announcement of the judgment.

18:50 The Supreme Court decided to liquidate the centralized religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, as well as all 395 local religious organizations of this religion.

Believers have already begun to prepare a complaint to the appellate court (a panel consisting of three judges of the Supreme Court), which should be considered within a month.

The Russian Supreme Court Case To Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses (Day 5)


In the morning’s proceedings, there were some interesting subjects discussed.

Jehovah’s Witnesses were suspected of ulterior motives for helping out cities in Russia. Representatives of the Administrative Center didn’t outright deny such claims but instead said that “it cannot be so”. Former Jehovah’s Witnesses know only too well that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ primary goal is to make their organization look appealing to potential converts. There is always ulterior motives to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ actions.

A quote from the Watchtower publication “Mankind’s Search for God” is read out to the court. The exact quote is found on page 8, paragraph 11 of the book. What is interesting about this quote is that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not tolerate former Jehovah’s Witnesses who have “a different view point”. They are labelled as “apostate”, disfellowshipped, shunned and treated as if they were “children of the devil”.

For former members who have serious issues with the blood policy, they will find Watchtower’s frustration with the court’s inquiries into this matter quite interesting.

The court was also interested in who owns jw-russia.org.

In the afternoon’s proceedings, there were further subjects of interest.

The format of the meeting minutes for the various LROs seemed to be almost identical, as if there was formal guidance on the approach.

The videos relating to the planting of extremist materials were discussed but were not viewed by the court.

Documents from various domestic and international organisations who condemn the possible banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses was discussed.

Documents relating to blood transfusion cases were not admitted into case materials.

Jehovah’s Witness representatives admitted that a letter found on a Russian media website alleged to be issued by the Administrative Center was authentic.

The properties alleged to be owned by the Administrative Center and the LROs were examined. The Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed that such properties were no longer theirs. This claim might be true based on recent attempts to legally transfer ownership to individual members rather than the administrative entities per the above letter.

9:00 More people than ever had formed a crowd at the front of the Supreme Court. The line started to form at night time. Many from different cities throughout Russia, came especially for the occasion. As the weather in Moscow was cold, most were dressed in winter gear. At times, some came with coffee and cakes for those standing in line. Police officers worked professionally and in harmony to ensure the safety of those who are there to attend the court hearing.

10:05 Chenkov made a motion to admit new documents. Referring to the ongoing process, he reported that in March/April 2017, law enforcement agencies throughout Russia invaded their religious buildings, demanded that they stop, questioned believers, and rewrote their passport data. Prosecutors issued warnings of criminal liability relating to extremism because of holding meetings to study the Bible. The Ministry of Justice objected to the motion. The court determined that such documents should be attached to the case materials.

10:15 The Ministry of Justice representative requested that copies of the decisions of the Administrative Center’s Steering Committee on the appointment of the LRO committees be attached to the case materials. According to the Ministry of Justice, these documents testify to the leading role of the Center. Representatives of the Administrative Center are left to the discretion of the court. In their opinion, this is untenable evidence. Watchtower’s attorney’s direct attention to the fact that some documents are dated 1998 and earlier (that is, before registration of the Administrative Center under the new law). In addition, the contents of the certificates fully comply with the Charter of the Administrative Center. Certificates were issued based on the fact that the Charter of the LROs was changing, so the certificates were issued to confirm that the persons indicated in them were still members of the LRO committees. The court determined that such documents should be attached to the case materials, with the exception of those that applied prior to the re-registration of the Administrative Center.

10:25 The court proceeded to examine the case materials. The first document was the statement of claim from the Ministry of Justice. The court consulted with the Ministry of Justice representative to clarify on what grounds the department had asked to liquidate all LROs together with the Administrative Center. He asked whether the Ministry of Justice intended to clarify the complaint. The Ministry of Justice did not intend to. Watchtower’s lawyers drew attention to the property listed in the complaint and stated that it did not belong to the Administrative Center.

10:35 The court examined the document, “The Fundamentals of the Doctrine and the Practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses”. Lawyer’s drew attention to the provisions of love for neighbor and tolerance (which directly contradicts the notion of extremism). They were also asked to read out the provisions where it said that Jehovah’s Witnesses were trying to give their children a good education.

10:40 The Charter of the Administrative Center is investigated. The court is interested in the question of whether the religious groups are part of the structure of the LROs. They wanted to know how many groups were unregistered. The lawyers explained that unregistered groups are part of the Administrative Center’s structure: The concept of “structure” in the “Law on Freedom of Conscience” is associated with the separation of religion from the state. Religions exist in accordance with their internal hierarchical institutional structure, to which the state does not delve. In this regard, the lawyers believe that the Administrative Center does not have to maintain legal documentation related to the activities of unregistered groups, and therefore cannot provide the court with official information.

10:47 The court announces a 10-minute technical break.

11:00 The study of documents continued. The court listed various court decisions. When the decision of the Rostov Regional Court of 2009 (regarding the Taganrog LRO) was investigated, Watchtower’s representative, Omelchenko, drew attention to the fact that such a decision was made prior to the decision of the Assembly of the Supreme Court, which determined what was and was not extremism. For example, by this decision, the Taganrog community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as their publications, were recognized for “undermining respect for other religions”, “refusing to use blood for medical purposes”, and “refusing to fulfill civil obligations”. Also, a number of publications were considered extremist when they had absolutely nothing to do with extremism. For example, the brochure, “Jehovah’s Witnesses – Who are they? What do they believe?” was deemed extremist for mentioning that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take up arms. There were other examples.

11:10 Representatives of the Administrative Center drew attention to the fact that the collection of judicial acts were issued without the involvement of the Administrative Center. Therefore, they believed that they could not be served as evidence in this suit.

11:15 The Administrative Center representative, Novakov, drew attention to the fact that at least one court decision, although attached to the case materials by the Ministry of Justice, was quashed by a higher court.

11:20 The Ministry of Justice’s Inspection Report is being discussed. The Administrative Center’s lawyers drew attention to what they believe is the unreliability of the Ministry of Justice’s conclusion that the Administrative Center hides information about imported literature. In fact, having provided more than 70’000 sheets of documents for examination by the Ministry of Justice, the Administrative Center refused to provide information that the Ministry of Justice had requested from the customs authorities in the framework of inter-agency cooperation.

11:30 The Ministry of Justice representative drew attention to the fact that, according to one of the documents, more than 2000 unregistered groups operated under the supervision of the Administrative Center. The Administrative Center’s lawyers explained that this was an internal spiritual structure.

The court asks the Ministry of Justice why the turnover and balance sheets were attached to the case materials. The Ministry of Justice representative explained that the statements may indicate that “money was sent to finance extremist activities.” The court asked for evidence that money was spent on extremist activity and not on ordinary statutory goals. The Ministry of Justice did not have exact data. Administrative Center representative, Toporov, drew attention to the fact that, as part of an audit by the Ministry of Justice, the Administrative Center provided all their donation contracts with the primary purpose of understanding their financial transfers. Toporov’s question was “Why didn’t the Ministry of Justice submit these documents to the court?”

11:40 Administrative Center representative, Omelchenko, asked the Ministry of Justice representative: “Can you specify the amount spent, when it was spent, by whom and for what type of extremist activity it was used for?” The Ministry of Justice had no information.

11:45 The documents that proved the prosecutor’s office collected information about the property of believers was examined. The Administrative Center’s representatives were interested in the Ministry of Justice representative’s response to what purpose this information was collected. Answer: for the purpose of confiscating property in the event that the court adopts an appropriate decision.

11:50 Letters of gratitude for help in the improvement of cities issued by Russian authorities to the Administrative Center and the LROs were reviewed. The Ministry of Justice representative believed that Jehovah’s Witnesses were doing this for the purpose of missionary activity. Chenkov, referring to the Ministry of Justice representative: “Svetlana Konstantinova, when it came to financing the LROs, you suspected extremist goals. When believers participated in helping the city, you again assumed some kind of dirty trick. It cannot be so!”

11:55 Chenkov drew attention to the State Religious Expert Examination of the Ministry of Justice, the basis upon which the Administrative Center was registered in 1999. Conclusions of this expertise were still in effect. Zhenkov believed that an attempt to revise the conclusions of the competent expertise in the court session was unacceptable.

12:00 Court business went on to review expert conclusions of which 70 testified to the absence of extremism in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publications. Many such studies were conducted in academic institutions on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. For example, Chenkov, referring to the conclusions of the state academic institution, quotes from the book, “Mankind’s Search for God” (included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials (FLEM)). The book says [on page 8, para 11], “To study different religions need not imply infidelity to one’s own faith, but rather it may be enlarged by seeing how other people have sought for reality and have been enriched by their search. Knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to tolerance of people with a different view point.” Experts found no signs of extremism in the book, but rather the opposite. Nevertheless, the book is included in the FLEM.

12:05 The Ministry of Justice believed that these examinations were carried out on the request of the Administrative Center’s laywers, which means that they contain expert’s biased opinions. Omelchenko explained that this was not true: a significant part of the examinations were carried out at the request of the courts, law enforcement agencies and custom authorities.

12:15 Court decisions and sentences that came into force were being investigated which prove the absence of extremism in the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Believers were prosecuted and some were held up in the courts for up to five years before being acquitted. Now they are again threatened with sanctions in the event that the complaints of the Ministry of Justice are satisfied.

12:17 Representative Novakov: The planting of extremist materials into Jehovah’s Witnesses’ places of worship is at epidemic proportions in Russia. Novakov described the events of September 20, 2016 in Artse Nezlobnaya (Stavropol region), when law enforcement offices ripped down the doors and planted extremist materials right under the surveillance cameras.

12:19 Omelchenko: The Ministry of Justice did nothing to ensure that the expert conclusions made on the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses did not differ between those examinations made in the North and the South of the country. As a party to the court cases, the Ministry of Justice didn’t review the court decisions that had come into effect on the recognition of the materials of Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremist.

12:25 The decisions of the European Court of human Rights (ECHR) were reviewed. Despite the fact that the ECHR gave legal interpretion to the denial of transfusion of blood by believers, the court again developed a discussion with regard to the transfusion of blood. The Ministry of Justice representative referred to a case where a child of Jehovah’s Witnesses died after a terrible accident, and also referred to a case involving the death of a child born with multiple deformities. The court asked the Ministry of Justice representative whethere there was a causal relationship between the non-use of donor blood and the deaths that took place. The Administrative Center’s lawyers inform the court about information the Ministry of Justice representative is leaving out: in both cases, criminal proceedings were initiated against the parents, extensive expert evaluations were carried out to establish the absence of such a causal link. The parents were acquitted due to lack of evidence of a crime.

12:40 Materials proving that believers applied to the appropriate competent authorities with regard to the falsification of facts (planting of evidence) was examined.

12:45 Court decisions on the recognition of literature as extremist materials. It could be seen that neither the Administrative Center or representatives of the publishing corporation (Watchtower), were involved in the cases. Administrative Center representatives talked about double standards of state bodies. When it was necessary to recognize literature as extremist, the Administrative Center was not allowed to take part in the cases, but when there was a move to liquidate the Administrative Center, it was based on the facts that literature had been recognized as extremist.

13:00 In the case materials, there were DVDs with video-recordings. Novakov said that such materials would help understand whether the Administrative Center had brought prohibited materials into their places of worship, or whether any other related person had done so. The discs would allow the court to see the reaction of the believers themselves – how they reacted indignantly at the appearance of prohibited materials in their places of worship.

13:05 The court asked from what time the videos belonged. Novakov: The events in the village of Nezlobnoya date back to September 2016. It was only because of the video recordings that law enforcement officers refused to press charges against the LROs. Novakov described falsifications caught on camera in other Russian cities.

13:10 The court asked the Administrative Center’s representatives whether all these facts were appealed in the established order. And if so, were there any results. The representatives confirmed that they had appealed and are continually appealing, but so far they have been unsuccessful. The court proceeded to examine other evidence without viewing the video recording.

13:20 In total there are at least 43 volumes of evidence in the case materials. So far, the court has examined 24 volumes.

13:25 The court read out the Administrative Center’s public statement that they have nothing to do with extremism. The application was originally posted on the website, jw-russia.org. In this case, the court finds out who is the copyright owner of this site. The representatives of the Administrative Center report that the website belongs to the foreign entity, “Watchtower Society”. The administrative center does not have a website, so the application was posted on the website of another organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

13:30 Several of the volumes of evidence in the case materials consist of LRO inspections by the justice authorities, but no violations of the law have been identified. The Ministry of Justice requests that copies of various warnings and warnings issued to the Administrative Center be attached to the case materials.

13:43 The court announces a break until 14:30.

14:40 The hearing continued. Volume 39, which contains LRO’s meeting minutes from various cities is reviewed. The minutes recorded in detail the events associated with the planting of extremist literature, as well as measures that had been taken against the emergence of extremist literature in the religious buildings.

14:45 The court draws attention to the fact that the form used for the meeting minutes of the various LROs were similar to each other. The court is interested in whether there is an approved form used for these meeting minutes. Omelchenko explains that there is no approved form. The reason for their similarity is explained by the face that believers communicate closely with each other.

14:50 The court again asks the Administrative Center’s representatives whether they intend to challenge the court’s decisions that formed the basis of the complaint. Omelchenko makes it clear that the current court proceedings were not a review of those decisions. In this proceeding, like any other evidence in a case, the court must evaluate the degree of their relevance.

15:02 Color photographs were viewed. They were freeze frames of video materials that prove the planting of extremist materials in religious buildings. Novakov drew attention to a single scheme that was carried out across the country and that was of planting materials.

15:07 Another characteristic of the false planting was that of false witnesses. One example was the notarized certificate of friendship between one of the witnesses and a FSB officer on a social network.

15:08 In the village of Kurdzhinovo (Karachaevo-Cherkessia), there believers were fined on the basis of statements made by false witnesses. Subsequently, these witnesses admitted that they knowingly gave false testimony under pressure from law enforcement. Novakov pointed out that such admissions were available in the case materials.

15:13 Omelchenko drew attention to the court decisions handed down in Voronezh. The court correctly assessed that material found stuck under a carpet on the floor were clearly planted. As the Voronezh court noted in its decision, the fact that the witnesses profess the same religion could be given as grounds to doubt the authenticity of their testimony.

15:16 Omelchenko returns to the question raised earlier at 14:45. He showed the court a number of forms from different LROs. These forms vary greatly. The court asked the Ministry of Justice representative whether her department had doubts that there were forms that differ in design. She didn’t have doubts. Neither did the court have doubts.

15:20 Toporov drew attention to the fact that the decision to liquidate the Birobidzhan LRO was made in a trial involving the same Ministry of Justice representative, S. Borisova. The Administrative Center was not involved in the case, as its rights were not affected. Therefore, Toporov was surprised that in this case, the Ministry of Justice has changed its position and has applied the Briobidzhan’s LRO decision on to the Administrative Center.

15:25 Documents signed by various international and domestic bodies and organizations that expressed concern about the application of anti-extremism legislation to the Jehovah’s Witnesses was examined. Omelchenko read out typical excerpts from those documents, including appeals that were made to the Russian Federation to stop the political persecution of believers.

15:42 The court returns to petitions previously referred to that were deferred. The Ministry of Justice representative asked to attach 12 judgements that gave doctors the right to use donor blood for the treatment of minors to the case materials. The Administrative Center’s representatives did not believe that these decisions were relevant to the case.

Firstly, the rejection of a blood transfusion is not related to the concept of extremism (the Ministry of Justice has not cited anything else in their suit to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses, other than the grounds of extremist activity).

Secondly, the Administrative Center was not party to those cases and is not even mentioned in any of those decisions.

Thirdly, the introduction of these decisions affects medical confidentiality. For them to assess the judgments as well as their medical records, the court would need to seek the consent of the patients. In all decisions, without exception, parents would treat their children and treat them in hospitals. With regard to refusal of treatment, it was not a lie.

Chenkov drew attention to that fact that the ECHR ruling, which gives legal interpretation of the refusal of blood transfustions, gave examples of prohibitions in Islam and Orthodoxy that may be potentially hazardous to health. “However, the Ministry of Justice does not come out with a lawsuit to liquidate the centralized organisation of these religions,” noted Chenkov.

15:59 The court refused to include court decisions related to blood transfusion procedures.

16:10 The court decides on whether to attach copies of 28 actions by the prosecutor’s office, namely warnings issued against various LROs. These actions were carried out over many years, not just the last 3 years.

16:20 The court asks why the Ministry of Justice didn’t apply to local courts on these actions. The Ministry of Justice explained that the violations were minor or eliminated. Representatives of the Administrative Center noted that these actions were not connected with extremist activity. The court refused to attach these actions to the case materials.

16:22 The court returned to the question on whether to attached a copy of an internal document of Jehovah’s Witnesses received by the Ministry of Justice from open sources (from NTV‘s website) to the case. The Administrative Center’s representatives confirmed the authenticity of the text. They explain the contents of the letter to the court, which detailed the procedure relating to believer’s voluntary donations. They explain to the court what the “body of elders” are and who are the “district overseers”. Taking into account detailed explanations, the court decides to attach this document to the case materials.

16:35 In response to a statement by the Ministry of Justice representative that the LRO chairmen are appointed upon the decision of the Administrative Center is mandatory, Toporov drew attention to the wording, “recommends as chairman of the LRO”.

16:36 The Ministry of Justice representatives asks that an updated list of property owned by the Administrative Center and LROs extracted from the state register be attached to the case materials. The court gives the defendants 10 minutes to become acquainted with the extract.

16:38 A small technical break is announced.

17:11 The hearing resumed. The representatives of the defendant, having read the extract from the register, comment that the extract is not relevant information because it was property that was once owned by the Administrative Center or the LROs but is no longer. The Ministry of Justice explains that the data contained in this form was provided by Rosreestr (Federal Service for State Registration, Boundaries and Cartography). The court decides to attach.

17:16 The court is interested in the link between the LRO and the Administrative Center in regards to how the LRO’s charter is forumlated. To this end, the judge asks the parties if they have an example of a LRO charter. The Ministry of Justice does not. Omelchenko presents to the court a sample of the Charter of the LROs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The text of the charter states that the LRO is included in the “canonical structure” of the Administrative Center, belongs to the “religious confession of Jehovah’s Witnesses”. There is no wording relating to “structural unit” (a term applied to political parties), of which the plaintiff insists there is.
17:29 The court refused the previously filed motion to watch a video of the planting of extremist materials.

17:30 As there are no more requests, the court announces the continuation of the hearings on Thursday, April 20 2017 at 2pm (Russian time)

The Russian Supreme Court Case To Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses (Day 4)


April 12, 2017 – Fourth day of the Russian Supreme Court hearing of the case brought by the Justice Ministry to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
The contents of the following is based on extremely prejudiced reporting from jw-russia.org. The content herein is very biased towards the Jehovah’s Witnesses’. They provide scant details when reporting on arguments presented by the Justice of Ministry and former Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is obvious in the reporting of information presented from timestamps 16:05 onwards.

As you will read you will see clear signs of obfuscation by the lawyers representing the Administrative Center. The reader would do well to bear in mind that when the lawyers for the Administrative Center do not directly answer questions posed by the judge or the Justice of Ministry representative, but instead answer using analogies, this is an attempt by the lawyers to confuse the issue and make statements without having to lie to the court.

Consider the testimony of Vilen Kantere; he claims that his religions does not hinder the pursuit of higher education. This contradicts the testimony of the Governing Body on jw.org. Also, carefully consider the testimony of the female Witness. When asked why she didn’t become a founder of the LRO, she states “I do not see the need”. As she is a woman, she is not allowed within the Jehovah’s Witness faith to be a founder, even if she were to “see the need”. All these responses are misleading the court.

8:00 Cook St, Moscow. It was an invigorating morning with frozen fingers. There were more than 200 people waiting at the entrance. Those at the front of the line arrived at the court by taxi at 5:30am. But they were not the first: believers were sitting in parked cars waiting at the court.

9:30 On the eve of April 11, 2017, most Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia were able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Information had come through that the police and other law enforcement agencies invaded their celebration in Snezhinsk (Chelyabinsk region). They revised the worshipper’s right to operate services. Law officers also went to services in Krasnoyarks and Michurinsk (Tambox region) to ask questions of give believers hand-outs.

9:58 “Please rise”. The court announced the continuation of the hearing. The floor is given to Watchtower lawyer, Anton Omelchenko to provide explanations. Omelchenko said that he would explain how the Justice Ministry’s claim violates the provisions of the Constituation of the Russian Federation and international treaties.

10:12 Omelchenko gave a convincing argument showing that the suit of the Ministry of Justice contradicts Articles 9,10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights; Articles 28, 29 & 30 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation; as well as provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He quotes from judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), in which the authoritative court established the right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to freedom of religion. The Ministry of Justice’s claims are not justified and proportionate.

10:18 The ECHR, in its decisions, clearly defined which texts could be considered as inciting hatred and enmity – incitement to violence, blood feuds, and calls that justified the need to use physical force. Noteworthy is the fact that the memorandum sent to the ECHR by the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Justice recognized that there are no open calls for violence in the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses (para 41).

10:25 Omelchenko noted that the communities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which the Ministry of Justice wants to liquidate, received many letters of commendation from local authorities, but they didn’t receive warnings about the inadmissibility of extremist activity.

10:31 Speaking with regard to the disproportionate measures taken by the Ministry of Justice, Omelchenko lists the steps taken by the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Administrative Center:

They notified all LROs about the books listed on the Federal List of Extremist Materials

They established a process to prevent the emergence of extremist materials

They would inform the authorities of any issues

They asked the Prosecutor General’s Office what other measures could be expected of Jehovah’s Witnesses to prevent extremist activity.

10:43 International law prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment. This law protects a person’s dignity, including the right of a person’s mental integrity. The Ministry of Justice’s lawsuit on the prohibition of Jehovah’s Witnesses breaks the moral and physical right of the individual, forcing them to fear openly professing their faith. Some victims of criminal prosecution in Taganrog left the Russian Federation and received political assylum in Europe. Their departure clearly shows that believers are afraid to openly profess their religion. Of course, most of the 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses will not leave Russia, so are more likely to be persecuted.

10:50 Omelchenko analyzed the legality of the Ministry of Justice’s actions. Through the use of current legislation, Jehovah’s Witnesses are recognized as victims of political repression. The law obligates the Ministry of Justice to promote the rehabilitation of believers. However, the Justice Ministry is moving in the opposite direction. Omelchenko lists domestic and international calls for Russia to stop the politically motivated persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses through the misuse of anti-extremist legislation. These calls are signed by the most famous Russian human rights activists, an open letter from the Moscow Helsinki Group, as well as calls from various groups in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United Nations, and others. International Standards for preventing repression require that close attention be paid to calls coming from the human rights community. The Ministry of Justice, while ignoring all these calls, continues to act as a repressive body.

11:04 Omelchenko talks to the prejudiced position of the Ministry of Justice. Expert groups within the Ministry of Justice had come to mutually exclusive conclusions about the same materials of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Ministry of Justice did nothing to correct this situation. Moreover, the Ministry of Justice has always insisted on applying only those conclusions of experts who found “signs of extremism” in the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is on this evidence that the Ministry of Justice’s claim to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses is politically motivated.

11:12 Watchtower lawyer, Zhenkov, asked for an opportunity to provide an explanation to the court in relation to the Justice Ministry’s allegation of “an example of violation of the rights of citizens by a religious organization” where a patient chose two alternative medical treatment instead of a blood transfusion.

Firstly, Zhenkov was puzzled as to how the Ministry of Justice got access to a confidential medical document.

Secondly, Zhenkov said that the refusal to a blood transfusion is not just about violating anyone’s rights, but conversely, a citizen has the right to voluntary informed treatment. If a patient were refused treatment only on religious grounds, this would be a violation of rights. Zhenkov read out excerpts from the Order of the Ministry of Health regarding the dangers of the transfusion of blood components. He also spoke of the need for hospitals to receive written consent in advance from patients to carry out such treatment. Zhenkov noted that there is no reservations provided in the order. It seems that members of some religions are allowed to use their right to informed consent, and others are not.

11:30 The judge asks questions of the defendant’s representatives.

Question 1: Does the Administrative Center interpret the Bible for the Local Organizations in Russia?

Answer 1: No. The interpretation of sacred tests is provided by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses (International leadership).

Question 2: According to their charter, in what sense does the Administrative Center ensure the “coordination of activities” of the LROs?

Answer 2: LROs are independent legal entities but the administrative center provides them with “recommendations”. For example, if there is a question of building a liturgical building, the Administrative Center may, with reference to the bible, recommend the construction of a modest, unimproved building. However, the final decision on what will be the new building is made by the LRO.

Question 3: Does the administrative center approve the statues of the 8 LROs that were liquidated by the decisions of the court?

Answer 3: The founders of new LROs apply to the Administrative Center with a request to enter their structure in order to speed up the registration process. In such cases, the Administrative Center unconditionally agrees their statutes to ensure that the founders are Jehovah’s Witnesses and that their mission objectives are in line with the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ creeds.

Question 4: Is the Administrative Center the founder of non-commercial, public organization or a LRO as is spelt out in their Charter?

Answer 4: Watchtower’s lawyers attempt to obfuscate the issue by saying that their Charter is there “just in case” but that it was never implemented. They say that the founders of all the LROs are local citizens. As an example, they say that their Charter also provides LROs with the possibility of importing literature but that such importation was never implemented.

12:05 

Question 5:Are the chairmen of the LROs also members of the Steering Committee of the Administrative Center?

Answer 5: LRO members are never part of the steering committee of the Administrative Center.

Question 6:Are the decisions of the Administrative Center mandatory for the LROs?

Answer 6: The Watchtower Lawyer, Kalin, avoids answering the question directly. Instead, he explains that while the LROs may request material assistance from the Administrative Center (in the form of donations), the center is only interested in how such funds are used. As an example, he said that the Administrative Center provides assistance for a modest religious building project, and the LROs coordinate such a project with the local authorities. Another example he gave was that if a natural disaster were to occur, the Administrative Center donates funds to help believers and collaborates with the LROs to help injured Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as their relatives.

Note:This answer does not answer the question because answering such a question openly and honestly would prove disastrous for Watchtower. The answer to the question is: YES.

Question 7: Are the donated funds spent on the production of printed materials?

Answer 7: No.

Note:Much of the donated funds are sent to the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses where such funds are used in the production of printed materials, including Russian literature that is shipped into Russia. To respond with “No” is incorrect.

Question 8:Did the Administrative Center import literature that was later recognized as extremist?

Answer 8: The defendants explained that the function of the Administrative Center is purely logistical. They said that individuals make orders that are fulfilled by a “foreign publisher” and that they, the Administrative Center, also obtain literature in the same way. They said that the Administrative Center does not disseminate literature.

Question 9:One of the books was imported into Russia shortly before it was recognized as extremist. But when was it distributed among believers?

Answer 9: The Watchtower lawyers said that attorneys review the Federal list of Extremist Materials and when a book is found in it, the Administrative Center immediately informs the members and they request that it no longer be used. The Administrative Center could not distribute the book.

Note:For the lawyers to say that they “could not” distribute the book is not to say that they “do not” distribute the book.

12:30 The line of questioning passes to the Ministry of Justice.

Question: What is the role of the Administrative Center in approving the charters of the LROs and their members?

Answer: Omelchenko gave an example. The role of the Administrative Center in approving the LRO statutes is similar to the role of the Ministry of Justice itself: The Ministry of Justice verifies the statues for compliance with the law, and the Administrative Center checks the statues for canonical compliance.

The Ministry of Justice asks a number of questions devoted to understanding how “independent” the LROs are in their activities; how important the influence is on the LROs from the Administrative Center, including the approvals from their governing bodiess and the charters of the LROs.

Note:jw-russia.org made a conscious effort not to report questions and answers that presented them in a clearly negative light.

The judge asks the Ministry of Justice representative:

From a legal point of view, how does this affect the capacity and personality of the entities?

The Ministry of Justice representative counters with:

Who are the traveling ministers? Who are the special preachers?

Watchtower’s representatives explain that these ministers cooperate with religious groups and not with the LRO.

Note from AvoidJW.org: Although this is true, it’s not a full revelation of the facts. Traveling Ministers and special preachers are directed by the Administrative Center by means of directives sent out as letters.

12:50 The Judge asks the Ministry of Justice representative:

Does the Ministry of Justice have evidence that the travelling ministers and special preachers are somehow involved in the decisions of the competent authorities that recognize individuals or LROs as guilty of extremist materials?

The Ministry of Justice said no, it does not have such evidence.

Does the Ministry of Justice still believe that judicial actions against natural persons and LROs have a prejudicial force in this case?

The Ministry of Justice still believed so because the Administrative Center was aware of these cases.

The court reminded the Ministry of Justice representative that in this legal process, it is necessary to verify the legality of the requirements so proceed to follow the rules of the law.

13:10 The Ministry of Justice attempts to find out whether the Administrative Center provides material assistance to the LRO, or if the Administrative Center and LRO are a single organization with the LRO being a subordinate organization of the Administrative Center.

Zhenkov explains with the following analogy: If a person provided material assistance to his friend, this does not mean that the friend is dependent upon him.

The Ministry of Justice then asks:

Does the Administrative Center inspect the financial activities of the LRO?

Watchtower’s lawyers explain that there is no such duty at the Administrative Center. Instead, they direct attention to the Justice Ministry: The Justice Ministry performs regular inspections of the economic activities of the LRO, as evidenced by hundreds of acts of inspections that are available. None of the inspections revealed the use of funds for non-target purposes.

Note:The above answer was truthful because it was answering a question in the present. However, to make the claim the Administrative Center performs “no such duty” back in February would have been false. A letter issued to the LROs on February 20th changed the duties of the Administrative Center towards the LROs.

13:25 The Ministry of Justice is interested in why the Administrative Center only sent a letter to the LROs about recognizing one of the extremist books only after its inclusion in the Federal List of Extremist Materials when they knew, by their own admission, about the decision earlier from the information on the district court’s website.

The lawyers explain that it is extremely difficult to monitor court decisions on official court websites. Moreover, it was not clear from the brief information on the court’s website that it was a publication of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

13:35 The Ministry of Justice draws attention to the fact that, according to the publication, “Fundamentals of the Doctrine of Witnesses of Jehovah” (obsolete since 2010), the main means of disseminating the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the magazine, “Watchtower”. Permission to distribute this periodical was prohibited in Russia and that the document “Foundations of the Doctrine” were changed accordingly. The Ministry of Justice representative is interested in knowing what source is used now for the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Watchtower’s lawyer’s explain that the bible is the basis for the belief of Jehovah’s Witnesses and that most of the Witnesses’ religius books are based on the Orthodox Synodal edition. The periodical itself was not considered extremist, but only a few issues. Since 2015, no publications at all are imported into the country.

13:40 The Court announces a break until 14:30

14:30 The Ministry of Justice representative continues its line of questions:

What measures did the Administrative Center take to prevent extremist activity after the warning was issued by the Prosecutor General’s Office on March 2, 2016?

The judge asks the Ministry of Justice:

What if the Administrative Center did nothing at all? Would it be a good idea to liquidate them? Is extremism out of carelessness or inaction? If the answer is no, what is the court trying to find out? Why does the Ministry of Justice attribute this to the fault of the Administrative Center?

14:45 The Ministry of Justice submitted to the court an “internal” document of Jehovah’s Witnesses, received by the Ministry of Justice from other sources. The Ministry of Justice clarifies to the court that it was taken from the website, NTV. The Ministry of Justice believes that this letter would help clarify to the court how the financial departments of the Administrative Center and the LROs are financially connected.

Watchtower’s lawyers are not willing to confirm if the letter is authentic. It is, however, obvious that the LROs are neither recipients or senders of the letter, which means the letter has nothing do witht he process. The court postpones the decision on whether to attach this document to the case materials.

14:58 The Ministry of Justice requests the questioning of four witnesses on behalf of the plaintiff. These are persons who were once Jehovah’s Witnesses but later left. Watchtower’s representatives object. The court grants the questioning of the witnesses by the plaintiff.

15:05 Zavyalov Valentin Mikhailovich, a professor at MISI since 1992 is questioned. He confessed to being a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses for more than 20 years. He said that literature on the Federal List of Extremist Materials was never used at his religious meetings. He said that the names of the publications are posted on the wall of the room where religious services are held. Believers, he said, are careful to inspect the premises before the start of worship to ensure that there is no such literature found at their services.

15:20 Eugene Skladchikov, Doctor of Technical Services, Professor at MSTU became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1998. He says that he was attracted to religion because of the unconditional peaceableness of their bible teachings. It is completely incompatible with extremism. No extremist publications are used at worship services.

15:30 Witness Vilen Kantere, Ph.D, honored worker of Science & Technology.

Administrative Center representative, Toporov asks:

“When you became a Jehovah’s Witness 25 years ago, did you pursue extremist goals?”

Answer:

“God forbid! No, of course. This is incompatible with the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses”

The representative:

“Do you use materials that are included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials?”

Answer:

“Whether I agree with the these publications belong on the list of the Federal List of Extremist materials is another matter. But, as a law-abiding citizen, I destroyed these publications.”

Dozens of his students defended him and his doctoral dissertations. He claims that his religion does not contradict his scientific activity. He explained that his religion does not hinder the pursuit of higher education. As a scientific worker, he believes that education must be approached responsibly.

15:50 Witness Tatiana Kremneve, a Doctor of Educational Science.

As part of her work, she is involved in the prevention of child abuse and extremist materials in the youth environment. She is a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Administrative Center Representative asks her:

“When you became a Jehovah’s Witness, did you become motivated to commit extremist acts?“

Answer:

“No. The religion is incompatible with extremism.”

Judge asks:

“Why did you not become a founder of the LRO?”

Answer:

“I no not see the need.”

Zhenkov asks:

“Did the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses help you raise a child?”

Answer:

“I am proud of my child, his success in his studdies and work.”

Zhenkov:

“How do you feel about colleagues and students who do not share your religion?”

Answer:

“Positively, without hatred, disrespect, contempt or discrimination.”

16:05 The Ministry of Justice now invites its Witnesses. First Witness is Natalia Koretskaya. She left the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses many years ago. Because she has been out for so long, she could not be aware of the facts of extremist activity in recent years.

Note:Natalia Koretskaya was questioned for almost 50 minutes but jw-russia.org failed to report on her testimony.

16:54 The examination of the Witnesses by the Ministry of Justice continues. Testimony is now heard from former Jehovah’s Witness, Pavel Zverev.

18:11 The court drew attention to the fact that the first witness, Koretskaya used personal notes while giving evidence. Omelchenko asked her to explain how her notes were very similar to texts from the site of a well-known anti-sectarian center. The court decided to read Koretskaya’s notes later.

In Questioning the second witness, Zverev, the court asks:

If you are harmed, have you applied to the competent authorities on the matter?

The witness did not apply. Zverev said that under the influence of the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses he felt hatred for the clergy of the Orthodox church. The witness denied that he is in anti-cult organizations, although he met and was photographed with the most famous “sectologist”.

The third witness of the Ministry of Justice is Petrova, a former Jehovah’s Witness. In 1983, when she became a Jehovah’s Witness, she left her work connected with the propaganda of military heroism because it did not correspond with her beliefs. In 2009, she left the religion. As an example of the extremist activities of the Administrative Center, the witness cites the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses exclude those who commit sins from their ranks.

The court asked the Ministry of Justice representative what the arguments of the Justice of Ministry confirmed in this witness’ testimony. The Ministry of Justice speaks about a possible threat to an certain group of individuals.

On a question from the court as to whether Petrova had seen someone spreading extremist literature, the witness replied that she had not.

The court invites the last witness of the Ministry of Justice, V. Koretksy.

18:30 In 2009, Koretsky left the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The judge asked if his knowledge of Jehovah’s Witnesses is limited to 2009. He confirms that it is. The Ministry of Justice asked the witness to explain what he knew about the attitude of Jehovah’s Witnesses to higher education and to state symbols.

The court asks:

“If you did not specify these points in the grounds of the claim, why do we need to know?”

The Ministry of Justice recalls the question. On the question from the court as to whether Koretsky is interested in the outcome of the case, he answers, “Yes”.

The court announces a break until Monday April 19, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.