(Novye izvestiia/Steeves) In the USSR there was a Council for Religious Affairs. Recently one has had occasion to hear a suggestion that it should be reborn. Because the way it is, controls have been placed over everybody but only the Almighty is over believers. But it does not turn out that way: besides the Almighty, over everybody there is still the constitution. And in it is written: “Everyone is guaranteed freedom of religious confession, including the right to profess individually and together with others any religion or none at all, and to freely choose, have, and disseminate religious and other convictions and to act in accordance with them.”
I suspect that our minister of justice, Alexander Konovalov, recalls these provisions of the constitution. However his order for the creation within the Ministry of Justice of an expert council for conducting state religious expert analysis does not accord either with the constitution or with the federal law “On freedom of conscience and religious associations.” And the point is not that the skeleton of this council consists of priests and laity of the Moscow patriarchate and is headed by the frenzied “sect warrior” Alexander Dvorkin, under whom the minister studied in St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University while he was still a prosecutor. It is sadder that the law provides for conducting state expert analysis only at the time of registration of a religious organization and Minister Konovalov’s order endows the council with the right of expert analysis “also in other cases.” Expert analysis conducted by the council is supposed to have a “complex character”: in reaching a verdict everything will be taken into account that pertains to the activity of one or another organization, including internal documents, liturgical practice, and religious literature, which appears to be interference of the state in religious affairs. (Click top link for more)
About the image: According to an unconfirmed legend, Stalin secretly visited her at the house of a friend where she predicted that Moscow would not fall to the Nazis. This is how Stalin ends up on an icon of Matrona of Moscow.
In posting the icon, the priest, who has a history of provocative actions, stepped outside his authority and was denounced by the Moscow Patriarchate. (No further actions have been taken since literally dozens of copies of the “icon” have appeared throughout Russia– NFTU) According to one report, he was so severely reprimanded by his superior that he became physically ill. Many of his parishioners forced him to remove the icon from the altar calling it blasphemy…. The Weekly Standard, whose name Hitchens’ threw out as a source, reports it this way: “[O]n the fringes of Stalin worship, a small, bizarre cult regards the Communist dictator as a closet Christian and even advocates his canonization.” (Al Kresta, A Hitch in Evidence, 4/8/09. We don’t respect his conclusions– he falsely believes the cult of Stalin-worship in Russia is tiny, when we reported here how Stalin was gunning for first-place in the “Greatest Russian” competition…. Another take on the issue with more evidence and testimony from involved parties is here.– NFTU)