Moscow Jehovah’s Witnesses Raided

A couple of days ago I noted the response of the Papal Nuncio in Russia to a question about religious freedom in the country. Antonio Mennini told Interfax-Religion that:

Unfortunately, I am not aware of any specific facts prompting the US Congress to make this kind of reproaches.

He went on to praise Russia for allowing Roman Catholicism in the country to “exist normally”, and to back Moscow’s ban on a proposed gay rights parade.

Alas, Mennini’s toadying comments appear to have been unfortunately timed. Moscow News now reports:

Police have broken up a Moscow prayer meeting attended by about 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses and detained about 20 worshippers, a representative of the religious group told the Associated Press Thursday.

Vasily Kanin, a member of the small Russian community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said police in 10 squad cars arrived Wednesday at a public hall which the group had rented over the past few months and forced the worshippers to end their service.

…Kanin said police told the worshippers they were enforcing a ban on the group. But Kanin said a recent court ruling had prohibited only a legal status for the denomination and the accompanying rights to hold bank accounts and property.

…A June 2004 ruling by the Moscow City Court upheld a lower court decision earlier that year that prohibited Jehovah’s Witnesses from engaging in religious activity in the Russian capital…Prosecutors claimed the group was destroying families and endangering followers’ health by forbidding medical procedures such as blood transfusions. They also said Jehovah’s Witnesses were violating privacy by distributing religious pamphlets on the street and by mail.

(Hat tip Cult News Network)