Forum 18, 05 August 2022 (excerpts)
Without facilities at Gomel’s Living Faith Church, Pastor Dmitry Podlobko held river baptisms in late 2021 without state permission. He was fined 2 days’ average wage and his Church warned. So he held baptisms in July 2022 in his garden. A court fined him 2 weeks’ average wage. Asked whether Podlobko would have been punished had he and his friends been swimming, Police Chief Vasili Kravtsov responded: “They weren’t swimming in the pool. This was a religious ritual. They are completely different.”
Kravtsov insisted that he had violated the law. “Before conducting any religious rituals you need to ask permission from the local Executive Committee.” Such permission is often refused for events the authorities do not like.
Living Faith Church says it cannot afford such high costs. So after being punished for holding baptisms in 2021 in a river, Pastor Podlobko decided to hold baptisms in 2022 on private property but was fined anyway.
If a religious community repeats a “violation” within a year, the regime’s senior religious affairs official can apply to court for the community to be stripped of its right to exist. Many such decisions cannot be legally challenged.
On 1 August 2022, Minsk City Executive Committee officially warned New Life Church that it had broken the law by holding Sunday services in the church car park on 26 June and 24 July without official permission.