Russia's government has launched a Supreme Court bid to outlaw Jehovah's Witnesses and have the movement declared an extremist organisation. A Justice Ministry suit is working to ban the Jehovah's Witness religion entirely. That law, which requires neither the use nor advocacy of violence for activity to be labeled extremist, was enacted after a sustained Russian campaign against this group began in early 2006.
A representative for the ministry asserted that the Jehovah's Witnesses promoted the idea of their exceptionalism and supremacy over other religions, which similarly violated anti-extremism legislation.
The court ruled that it is ineligible to review this lawsuit because declaring someone a victim of political repressions is responsibility of other organizations.
The case was eventually adjourned until Thursday. One pamphlet quoted the novelist Leo Tolstoy, describing the doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church as superstition and sorcery, according to BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford.
The high-profile nature of the case is sparking coverage by global news outlets, including an article in Time magazine posted online on April 4 ("Russian Supreme Court Considers Outlawing Jehovah's Witness Worship") and a front-page article in the print edition of The New York Times ("Pacifist, Christian and Threatened by Russian Ban as "Extremist") on April 5. In January 2017, an appellate court rejected the Witnesses' appeal of the warning, and in March 2017 the Ministry of Justice filed a formal request for the Russian Supreme Court to designate the Jehovah's Witnesses' headquarters as extremist.
The Jehovah's Witnesses were founded in Pittsburgh in the 1870s.
"Their disregard for the state erodes any sense of civic affiliation and promotes the destruction of national and state security", claimed a report prepared for the prosecution, according to The New York Times.
There are about 175,000 Jehovah's Witnesses members in Russian Federation.
The current crackdown echoes previous eras of antagonism toward the religious group.
The U.S. commission said the treatment of the Jehovah's Witnesses reflects the Russian government's tendency to view all independent religious activity as a threat to its control and the country's political stability. Since 2004 sever branches and chapters of the organization were banned and shut down in various regions of Russian Federation.