Despite condemnations from human rights groups and the most recent pleas of U.S. vice president Al Gore, a controversial Russian bill on religion seems set to become law. Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, yesterday approved the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations in a unanimous vote, and Kremlin sources have indicated that President Boris Yeltsin intends to sign it into law. Yeltsin had vetoed the original bill this past summer following an outcry of criticism, but the changes that he recommended be made in the legislation do little to mitigate what observers see as the worst features of the law. These critics charge that the law will undermine religious freedom by sharply limiting the rights of many "non-traditional" churches — those, in effect, which cannot prove that they have been operating in Russia for at least 15 years — to practice in Russia. If signed by Yeltsin, the law is likely to be challenged in Russia’s Constitutional Court; the U.S. Senate has threatened to cut off aid to Russia if the bill becomes law. (Western agencies; September 24; The Washington Post, September 25)
Yeltsin Blames Israel for Middle East Crisis.