BY MARY REZAC/CNA/EWTN NEWS 07/18/2016
MOSCOW — Despite protests from religious leaders and human rights groups, Russian president Vladimir Putin last week approved a new set of laws that would restrict evangelization and missionary activity to officially registered Church buildings and worship areas.
The laws fall under the umbrella of new anti-terrorism legislation, and prohibit sharing faith in private homes, online, or anywhere but recognized church buildings.
A missionary Catholic priest serving in Russia, who asked to be kept anonymous to protect his identity and his parish, told CNA that he expects the laws will have a much bigger impact on small groups of Evangelicals than they will on the Catholic Church in Russia.
The priest, who has been serving in Russia for 24 years, said that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Catholic Church has followed government regulations that require religious organizations to be officially registered with the government.
Some smaller religious groups, often evangelical Protestant groups, believe it is against their conscience to register with the government and so they refuse to do so, the priest said.
These new laws seem to be intended to target these newer, less established groups who are unregistered and may meet in private residences, he added.
The anti-evangelism law carries fines up to $780 for an individual and $15,500 for an organization. Foreign visitors who violate the law face deportation.