The Vyborg City Court, on August 17, 2017, declared “extremist” the Russian version of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, a Bible published by Jehovah’s Witnesses in numerous languages.
*This decision marks the first time that the Bible has been banned in a country where the majority of its citizens claim to be Christian.
In late July 2017, the Vyborg City Court resumed its hearing of the case, which had been adjourned since April 2016 to allow time for an “expert study” of the Bible. The judge had ruled in favor of a claim filed by the Leningrad-Finlyandskiy Transport Prosecutor to appoint an “expert study” of whether to declare the New World Translation to be “extremist.”
After numerous delays, the study was completed and was submitted to the court on June 22, 2017. The study concluded that the Bible is “extremist” literature, following the same pattern as previous court-appointed studies of the Witnesses’ publications by so-called experts.
To justify its conclusion, the study went so far as to claim that the New World Translation is “not a Bible.” By making this claim, the study attempts to circumvent the Law on Counteracting Extremist Activity, which forbids declaring extremist sacred texts such as the Bible.
Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a representative for the European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, stated: “For as often as Russian authorities have misapplied the law on extremism to our religious worship, now they are trying to bypass it—claiming that the New World Translation is not a Bible so that they can declare it extremist. It’s just another example of how far Russian authorities will go to malign Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
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