Moscow Court Bans Jehovah's Witnesses

A Moscow court has barred Jehovah's Witnesses from the Russian capital on grounds that their religious beliefs are harmful to families and incite hatred.

Christian Presber, a spokesman for the Witnesses, told The New York Times that the prosecutor in the case declared in court that eventually the Jehovah's Witnesses would be barred from practicing their faith anywhere in the country. Presber said the religious group has 11,000 followers in Moscow and 133,000 throughout Russia.

The Moscow court granted the prosecutors' request to bar Jehovah's Witnesses from practicing their religion in the capital under a law that allows Russian courts to ban religious groups that are believed to incite hatred or intolerant behavior. A 1997 law enshrines Orthodox Christianity as Russia's predominant religion and pledges toleration of Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. Restrictions on other groups, however, are allowed.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department issued a statement decrying the Moscow court's ruling.