Francesco Di Lillo, Research Advisor

Professor William Vladimirovich Schmidt, John the Apostle Orthodox Institute, Russian Orthodox University, and Ekaterina Elbakyan, Professor of Sociology and Management of Social Processes, Moscow Academy of Labor and Social Relations, presented during the session focusing on Russia about the relationship between the individual and religion, as well as the legal practice on matter related to religious freedom.

Professor Schmidt took an intensive philosophical approach discussing religion from the perspective of the three concepts of the human, the individual and the personality. These concepts create the foundations of metaphysical systems which, in turn, realize their potential in specific logical models (Cartesian, Trinitarianism and eclectic poliontologism). The concept of “human” can develop 1) as a personality with morality as its primary or basic experience of socio-cultural-political treaty; or 2) as an “individual” based on socio-political relationships (small groups, the family, etc.) having, as a primary norm the normal chain of command. The dominance of or balance between any of these two bases highlights and defines the development of specific civil and political relations, including religious systems.

He then concluded suggesting that these models brought to the Versailles-Washington and the Yalta-Potsdam systems, tools aiming to ensure balance of power or, in other words, models of the worlds as models of existence. This helps to explain the difference between different legal systems we have today and the way they are interpreted or managed by the individual and the States, especially those of  the former Soviet Union.

Professor Ekaterina Elbakyan used a more practical approach, tackling the need of legal expertise among those who practice the law in Russia. She recognized that although Russia has established special entities to foster relationships between Churches and the Government, many of these contradict the law of the country. Add to this widespread corruption and the incompetence of judges, it does not come as a surprise that the of the Courts may be heavily affected.

She shared a few case studies from the Hare Krishna movement, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormon missionaries being discriminated and the positive role of religious experts in each of these cases. Although courts generally do not ask for religious experts, Professor Elbakyan sustained that religious expertise can be considered a science, if approached scientifically. If approached this was, religious experts can make judgments more rationally, neutrally and methodologically, thus helping the judges making better decisions. For example, the work includes analyzing the groups by type and classifying religions (by consciousness, activity and structure). By applying these methods to communities of beliefs, they are then able to determine if these movements can be considered a religion or not. In conclusion, religious experts in Russia should work based on those foundations that should prevail in courts: they are not to make up or cover any facts, but think rationally, and be detached by any personal affection or preference.