Owing to Russia's recently enforced 'anti-terrorism' law, an American pastor has been charged for conducting a religious service in a private home. He apparently advertised in a public space, inviting people to join in the worship.
According to the new anti-evangelism law, religious gatherings are banned in homes, and the propagation of religion is strictly regulated.
As Christian Post reports, the pastor in question is Donald Ossewaarde, an independent Baptist missionary from Oryol, has appealed to the charges brought against him. He was convicted in August, and fined 40,000 rubles, a little more than $800.
In a post on his website, he wrote, "I was accused of gluing two Gospel tracts to a bulletin board at the entrance of an apartment building" and "of conducting a religious service in a private home, which they said was a violation of the new anti-missionary law."
"The accusation also claimed that I was at fault for not notifying the government before I began my religious group activities," he says. "I pointed out that, while the law allows people to form an organised religious group, it does not require them to do so. People are free to gather together for worship, whether or not they officially organise."
With regard to Friday's appeal, the pastor writes, "The police introduced new evidence...to show I am affiliated with BIMI (Baptist International Missions, Inc.) of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which they said was further proof that I was acting as a foreign agent, representing a foreign religious organisation."
"My lawyer and I were given time to examine the documents, and we explained to the court that BIMI is a service organization that collects my donations, forwards them to me, and provides other support services. I am not an employee of BIMI, nor do I teach 'BIMI doctrine,' and I am certainly not trying to get Russian people to 'join BIMI.' By the law's own definition of missionary activity, I have not done anything illegal," he stated in defence.