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July/August 1997

Boris Yeltsin vetoes anti-missionary legislation!

Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Russian Duma (parliament) that claimed to offer "protection" for "traditional religions". (Russian Orthodox, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam)

The bill was backed by the Russian Orthodox church. A closer look revealed its hidden agenda. It would have violated the Russian Constitution by effectively outlawing most non-Orthodox religious activities.

- "Non-traditional" religious groups (minority religions, foreign missionaries, etc.) would not be allowed to own property, rent space, or conduct public worship.

- Religious organizations would not have the right to teach their beliefs to anyone other than their own followers. (No soulwinning!)

By the end of June, the Duma overwhelmingly approved the bill by a vote of 300-5. In mid-July, the upper house of parliament voted 112-4 to approve the bill. It was then sent to President Yeltsin for his signature, which would have made it law. He was under tremendous domestic pressure to sign it.

Christians in Russia and around the world called for fasting and prayer on July 11-13. The Lord responded by focusing the world’s attention on this problem. (God even uses the wicked to accomplish His will.)

- The International Religious Liberty Association held their world assembly in Brazil this June. They formally protested the bill. The United Nations and Pope John Paul II also expressed opposition.

- At the same time, the U.S. State Department released a report on religious persecution around the world. The Russian legislation was criticized.

- On July 16 the United States Senate, considering a $13.2 billion foreign aid bill, voted 95-4 to cut off aid to Russia if the bill became law. About $195 million was earmarked for Russia.

Yeltsin vetoed the bill on July 22. This decision could damage him politically. He is personally committed to religious freedom, but his public statements about the veto were very conciliatory.

- He said, "There is no doubt that the law is necessary…" to protect the country from dangerous cults, etc., but that he could not sign the law "in its present form". He stated, "There can be no democratic society where the Constitution is not observed..."

- He indicated that he might sign some form of the law, as long as it does not violate the constitution. The Orthodox church is a powerful political force. Reading between the lines, I think he is trying to keep them happy by sounding like he is willing to cooperate, when he really isn’t.

The battle is not over. The parliament can modify the bill and return it to Yeltsin, or it can override Yeltsin's veto by a two-thirds majority, which would force Yeltsin to sign the bill in its present form. Please be much in prayer about this.

We had meetings on the East Coast in July, and spent most of August in Ohio. The family is healthy. We’ve seen several souls saved in our personal soulwinning. With some new supporting churches, our support level is now at 27%. Praise the Lord! Thank you for all your prayers.

In the service of the King,
Don Ossewaarde