On 21 July, 1999 the Dzerzhinsky Federal Court of St. Petersburg closed a civil case initiated by a suit of the Interregional Committee for Salvation from Totalitarian Sects against the St. Petersburg branch of the Collegiate Association for the Research of the Principle (CARP). The committee withdrew its claims against CARP, a youth organization of followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church.
Four years earlier, on the exact same date, 21 July, 1995, the committee launched its suit demanding $3.3 million in compensation for moral damage supposedly inflicted by CARP on the adult children of the committee's members. The amount of compensation demanded gradually grew and reached $10 million. The committee also demanded the liquidation of CARP, which allegedly brainwashed its members and destroyed their brain functions. The suit even made the absurd allegation that CARP, and by implication, the Unification Church was responsible for diluting the genetic pool of Russia. In addition the suit claimed that the organization prevented its members from fulfilling their social responsibilities as required under the Russian Constitution.
The absurdity of the allegations and the juridical machinations were very obvious from the beginning. Nevertheless, enjoying the support of the state organs and above all the Department of Justice of the City of St. Petersburg, the anti-cult group prolonged the case using every possible pretext.
During this time this youth organization of few members, busy with Unification Principle studies and charitable activities, experienced many examples of the questionable application of Russian law. In 1995 about 20 Tax Police officers, armed with automatic guns, expropriated all the organization's documents from the CARP offices and conducted a search of CARP members' private belongings. After all this, no tax violations were found.
Since the anti-cult committee depicted CARP members as "brainwashed" and demanded their forced psychiatric hospitalization for the treatment of "brainwashing," the children of the leaders of the anti-cult group were compelled to undergo a court-appointed psychiatric examination. Psychiatric experts found them to be perfectly sane, recognizing that any conflicts with their parents had their roots in their families long before they ever became involved with CARP.
Referring to the above court case, the Justice Department of St. Petersburg refused to register the local branch of the Unification Church and also warned CARP to stop violating its charter. The Justice Department of St. Petersburg was later ordered by a court to rescind its warning.
During the past four years many publications referred to this court case as evidence of the negative influence of foreign missionaries. Later the same sources ignored the fact that the anti-cult group had withdrawn all its claims.
The Interregional Committee for Salvation from Totalitarian Sects provides a vivid example of how authorities use anti-cult attitudes. Its activities ignore basic human rights, namely freedom of conscience and the inviolability of private life, and is directed toward inter-religious strife. The committee's activities direct many complaints to various authorities demanding the liquidation of a number of religious organizations and the prosecution of their leaders and members in accordance with criminal law. Although all examinations have proven the absence of any violations, the process of the investigations, accompanied by supportive media interviews of the anti-cult activists, creates negative publicity for new religions in Russia.
Such activities are widely supported by the Russian state. This can be seen by the fact that the St. Petersburg anti-cult group during this entire court case continued to receive financial support from the Administration of the City of St. Petersburg. The issue of money and the anti-cult committee's leadership style created controversy within the group. Calling the style of its chairwoman, Mrs. Ninel Russkikh, "totalitarian" during one of its meetings, the majority of members left the committee. Besides financial issues the break-up of the committee was due to its members' realization that it actually aggravates the conflict between its members and their children who are members of new religious movements.
At present the committee's chairwoman, Mrs. Russkikh, and her deputy, Mr. Babkin, have submitted to the court individual suits against CARP demanding $0.8 million each, on the same basis of experiencing moral distress through their children's membership in CARP. A few months ago they already sued the Unification Church with the same claims for $333,000 each at Kuzminsky District Court of Moscow. The court declined their demands, having found that their children had made their free choice of conscience according to the rights granted them by the Russian Constitution.
How long will the new case last?