The history of developments related to the proposed changes in the law on religion is a good lesson for every Christian. President Yeltsin acted courageously when he tried to veto this law. The Moscow Patriarch exercises great influence on the leaders and people in the country. The Patriarch tried to influence the committee on freedom of conscience. The Chief for the [Parliament's] Committee of Freedom of Conscience, Vyacheslav Polosin, implemented changes to the law [on religion] and represented the interests of the Patriarchy.
I was the only individual on the Committee who stood against the law. Through my connection to the Committee on Human Rights, I was able to present my protest to the President. Support from America had great influence. Sixty American senators signed a petition against the law. President Clinton himself was against the law. Peter Deyneka played a significant role by organizing a great campaign in America against the law.
It was no coincidence that four days before he dismissed the Parliament, President Yeltsin vetoed the law. After the Supreme Soviet and Vice-President Alexander Rutskoi closed themselves up in the White House, they decided that the law was so important that Rutskoi signed it as "President." In the midst of the chaos, the Parliament decided that the only subject they must look at was this law. Polosin saw to it that the law was discussed, passed, and adopted without consideration of the veto from the President.
I was in America this year before Patriarch Alexei was there. Alexei was invited to New York to receive an award for defending the freedom of conscience law. He was afraid to visit Washington and New York because he might have been asked which side of the events he was on. In this coup attempt the Patriarch was to negotiate in the stand-off between the President and those who occupied the White House. It was a great moral mistake. In the newspaper, Den, His Grace John of St. Petersburg took the side of the putschists [pro-Parliament forces] and the Patriarch did not protest against this publicly; that means he took their side. The negotiations between the President and Supreme Soviet only gave the Parliament time to strengthen and organize. The Patriarch will not have great influence on Yeltsin now because he did not support him during this attempted coup. The [Russian Orthodox] Church Abroad supported Yeltsin.
Orthodox priest and former Parliament member Fr. Gleb Yakunin served 10 years in the Gulag for his outspoken challenge to the state for its manipulation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
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© 1993 East-West Church and Ministry Report