Paul and Jan Crouch in Prison in Russia

It seems that Florida is not the only place where conservative Christian groups will have a captive audience of prisoners: apparently Christian television will soon be piped to prisons in Russia. Speaking to ASSIST, Rev. Igor Nikitin, president of the Association of Christian Churches in Russia, claimed that:

The movies we have on secular television are terrible. So the head of the prison [in Volgograd] wrote me a letter saying he needed our television. They’re willing to put educational television for all our prisoners. He wants to exchange secular television to Christian television, and they know it’s going to bring a positive impact.So this is amazing. I believe every prison in Russia will soon be watching Christian television. Imagine millions of people serving in the prison now.

The Association was founded in by Nikitin in 1995 as an umbrella for Charismatic churches, and received official government recognition in 1998 (see here – scroll down). According to a report by the Kansas Prayer Mission (scroll down again), the Association provides “Christian programming in partnership with TBN”. The Trinity Broadcasting Network, as readers may know, is run by Paul and Jan Crouch, and, as stated on its website, “offers 24 hours of commercial-free inspirational programming that appeal to people in a wide variety of Protestant, Catholic and Messianic Jewish denominations” – Hal Lindsey and Benny Hinn being particularly prominent.

Nikitin attributed this breakthrough to the prayers of the Reverend Lee Jae-Rock, a controversial Korean Christian faith-healer who held a large crusade in Russia last autumn. Well, it certainly is odd. Just a few days ago ASSIST was worrying about freedom of religion for Protestants under Putin, and recently Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned from meeting even in private in Moscow. Soviet laws instructing religious organisations to provide membership details to the state are also making a comeback. Even if the complaints of prisoners denied secular television can be ignored, will the Russian Orthodox Church really want “a wide variety of Protestant, Catholic and Messianic Jewish denominations” to enjoy such a monopoly?