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#10 - JRL 7231
From: John Helmer <helmer@online.ru>
Subject: Reply to Lawrence Uzzell/ 7228
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2003

Religion versus reason, or how about $48,000 for a united front against Russian moslems

It's nice to see that Mr. Uzzell has raised the tone of his invective in our debate between religion and reason. Now he calls me Mr. Helmer. But watch out for those adjectives and adverbs. Instead of admitting that the matter of Vladimir Okhotin's arrest by Russian customs officers at Sheremetyevo airport, carrying $48,000 in undeclared cash, is a case of religious persecution, Mr. Uzzell says it isn't "necessarily" so. But he goes on to repeat his claim of persecution by association, warning that a "threat of religious persecution" continues to "hang over" Mr. Ohkotin's group. Maybe it does, but that cannot explain, nor whitewash, Mr. Okhotin's particular troubles. For me to suggest that Mr. Okhotin's admitted crime of failing to declare his cash to the US government, and the crime, which the Russian authorities allege he committed at Sheremetyevo airport, have nothing to do with religious persecution strikes Mr. Uzzell as "overwrought". The professor thinks his adjective relieves him of the burden of answering the evidential problems in the case, as well as the legal ones. What will he say next about the American Mormon (a missionary, according to the newspaper report I've read) who was arrested this week at Yekaterinburg airport, smuggling out a late 19th century Russian crucifix? Are fundamentalist believers allowed the excuse of not knowing that what they export or import is subject to the law? Is God's law superior to the secular one?

These are such trite questions, I'm surprised Mr. Uzzell wants to rehash them. I'm also surprised that Mr. Uzzell omits to tell as much as he knows about the Okhotin group's appeal to American donors to give money for the creation of what the Okhotin family calls a "united front" of Christians in Moscow. And just who is the front to defend against? Not Russian persecution in general, nor the Russian special services in particular. According to an interview with Okhotin father and son, published recently on the website www.goodnewsetc.com, "although the gospel may freely be preached in many areas of the former Soviet Union, maybe more of a threat to the dissemination of that bread of life is the rapid encroachment of Islam." This report by Judy Erickson of Escondido, California, goes on to quote Okhotin junior: "According to Andrew, as goes Moscow so goes the rest of the regions of the former Soviet Union. Visitors come to Moscow from the regions to the south, the Islam-controlled central Asian states that border Muslim-ruled Afghanistan and Iran. Lines of transportation, trade, politics, society, all make Moscow their hub. According to Andrews educated observation, Muslim countries tolerate an Orthodox church because they see it tolerated in Moscow. Similar will be the result, he says, when Muslim and animist visitors view the Evangelical Baptist Church raise a prominent edifice in Moscow." Was the $48,000 to help pay for this edifice against Islam? When I asked the question, Mr. Okhotin mentioned "support of Baptist families", but he didn't refer to the Big Banana.

If Mr. Uzzell hadn't spent so much of his time cribbing from the Boston Globe, and focused instead on what the Ohkotin group is perceived to be doing by the network of its supporters and donors, he might help elucidate for all of us whether building united Christian fronts against Russian Moslems is the sort of activity that JRL believers in human rights should be endorsing.

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