A Language of “Sects” in Russian Reflections of Ukrainian Autocephaly

Stanislav Panin holds a  PhD in Philosophy from Moscow State University and is a Doctoral Student of the Department of Religion at Rice University

Though I am a scholar of religious studies, I am not an expert in Orthodox Christianity. My specialization is the study of both new religious movements and esoteric communities and their roles in contemporary culture. With such unusual interests, it should come as no surprise that my interests in Russian media coverage of Ukrainian autocephaly were equally unusual. For many years, I have observed that polemical narratives against emerging or unorthodox spiritual communities are more than just random attacks. Particularly within the Russian context, most of these criticisms uncover broader political ideologies that universally characterize religious groups as the enemy, building the foundation for large-scale ideological criticism not limited only to religion.

Brief History of the Term “Sect” (more…)

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(Anti)Religious Speech and State Security Measures

A Conversation, organized by Dmytro Vovk
of the Center for Rule of Law and Religion Studies, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University (Ukraine)

In the realm of religion, freedom of expression may manifest itself as freedom of religious expression and freedom to discuss and criticize religion, its virtues and vices, and its role in society. Both freedoms are essential for democratic states. Freedom of religious expression is crucial for people of faith as it enables worshiping and sharing beliefs, proselytizing, promoting religious values, and enriching public discourse with religious perspectives. On the other hand, in pluralistic societies religion should not be immune from criticism, even strong criticism that targets religious dogmas, manifestations, or believers’ way of life. (more…)

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Symbols, Speech, and Security

Elizabeth A. Clark is Associate Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies and Regional Advisor for Europe at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

I recently had the opportunity to be part of a panel at a conference sponsored by the International Association of Religion Journalists. I was particularly struck by how the difficult challenges journalists face in many parts of the world – prison terms, lawsuits, harassment by displeased religious or civic leaders – paralleled those of religious believers in their countries, particularly religious minorities. This similarity shouldn’t have been surprising. Research has shown a strong correlation between restrictions on religious freedom and decreased access to a large number of other fundamental rights and economic goods, including freedom of speech.[1] As Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen notes, freedoms tend to come as “bundled commodities.”[2] (more…)

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