Duma Requests Extremism Probe into Church Reform Article

Duma Session file photo

MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) – Representatives of the four factions in the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, on Wednesday requested an extremism probe into an article on a Russian Orthodox Church reform by political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky.

In the article published by the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily on February 15, Belkovsky says that the Russian Orthodox Church should cease to exist in its present form, “as a single bureaucratic entity,” and should be transformed instead into a “confederation of independent parishes,” so that “parishioners elect their pastors, pastors [elect] bishops and bishops [elect] the patriarch.”

According to lawmakers, the article contains “rude and groundless attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.”

“In this article Belkovsky has laid down his own program of action by the opposition concerning the Russian Orthodox Church. The first paragraph of this program states that the Russian Orthodox Church should be eliminated as a religious entity,” the lawmakers said. “As this article was published in a wide-circulation newspaper, we consider it a display of religious extremism and an incitement to religious hatred.”

They requested Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and Russian Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin to probe the article and take measures if necessary.