Religious Diversity and Human Rights

By Irene Bloom; J. Paul Martin et al. | Go to book overview

II
RUSSIAN ORTHODOXY
AND HUMAN RIGHTS

PAUL VALLIERE

This essay describes the situation and orientation of the Russian Orthodox Church with respect to human rights. Along the broad spectrum of rights I focus mainly on the civil rights of individuals and nonstate associations rather than the subsistence rights and rights to social services that figure so prominently in socialist theories of rights. By this I do not mean to suggest that the rights with which socialists are concerned are of secondary importance. It is simply a question of accepting the demands of my subject. Ever since the disestablishment and disenfranchisement of the Russian Orthodox Church as a result of the Russian Revolution the rights with which the church has been concerned are the rights of individual believers and of the church as an institution. These concerns were stimulated not by theology or ideology but by the harsh facts of life in the Soviet period: widespread persecution of religious believers and the virtual absence of civil rights respecting religion. The extent to which prerevolutionary Russian Orthodoxy may have helped to prepare the ground on which Soviet socialism was built is an issue that exceeds the scope of this essay.

Whether the Russian Orthodox Church is concerned about human rights at all has been a matter of debate. The view that the church is little more than a tool in the hands of whatever state governs Russia at a given time is widespread in the West and may not be much affected by the qualification that " Russian Orthodox Church," in this essay, means not just the hierarchs who represent the church on the national or international level but the whole com

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