Russia, a court will determine whether the New Testament is "extremist"
by Nina Achmatova

The case is related to the Gideons mission who wanted to import sacred texts, according to the law. Customs in Vyborg, however, blocked the shipment claiming they wanted to verify the presence of extremist literature.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - On 16 November in Vyborg, near St. Petersburg, the city court will hold a hearing on a case involving the examination of the New Testament and the Book of Psalms to determine whether or not they are extremist literature.

Last July, the Gideons – an evangelical Christian organization that distributes Bibles and New Testaments for free - wanted to import Bibles and books of Psalms to Russia which they have been distributing in the country for years.

The customs of Vyborg, however, called for a linguistic scrutiny by experts, before letting them enter the territory of the Russian Federation. Shortly after, one of the customs service officers in charge, Serghei Lenin, explained that the refusal to pass the material was linked to the fact that documentation showing that the books had not carried an extremist content, as required by law, was not submitted.

As reported by the portal Religia i Pravo, the office of the mission of the Gideons, Anatoly Pchelintsev, noted that the customs officials have completely ignored the amendments of 2015 to the law "to combat extremist activities" and for which the sacred books of the Bible, Quran, the Tanakh (the sacred texts of Judaism) and Kangyur (Buddhist canon) can never be considered extremist.

For this, the customs of Vyborg, according to Giodons, should not have stopped their books because they are the Bible. To confirm this, the Christian organization had provided the authorities subjected the texts to the scrutiny of the department of religious studies at Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University.

But the customs officers did not take into account either the amendments to the law, nor the analysis of experts and have held 20 thousand books at the border ad interim, so much so that many have been sent back to Finland where they had been printed.

"What happened can be explained by the ignorance of officials, police and customs personnel - writes Religia i Pravo - But this is an oversimplification and does not fully explain the situation. The head of Customs knows the New Testament, but also knows that whatever is religious is now suspect in Russia due to the intensification of the legislation ".

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