Missionary Work in Russia after the Yarovaya Laws – Introduction

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law the so-called “Yarovaya Laws” (named after the sponsoring legislator) to supposedly combat terrorism in Russia. As a variety of legal commentators have noted, however, the law imposes significant restrictions on social media and civil liberties generally. As has been appropriately noted by most of the media I’ve seen covering this issue, it matters a great deal how the law is applied in practice. Unfortunately, if the last four years are any guide, the law will be applied selectively and arbitrarily in order to create maximum paranoia and suppress activity by groups that the authorities (broadly defined) find “undesirable.”

There is so much to unpack in these statutes that I will save most of it for another day, but I did want to give a somewhat cooled “hot take” on the issue most active on the bloggernacle, namely the status of Russian missionaries after the law’s passage.

This has developed into a three-post analysis. The next post will cover the text of the law in detail. If statutory interpretation isn’t your thing, skip the heavy legal analysis for the third post, my interpretation of what the laws are likely to mean in practice.

Before I get into all that, as an introductory aside, I want to note that most people who are interested in this topic are initially concerned for American missionaries. This is not terribly surprising, and people should be concerned about their brothers and daughters and nieces and cousins, and about the missionary efforts of the Church. But I hope that after we have work through our concerns for the missionaries that we will spend at least as much concern thinking about how this will affect Russian Mormons, our brothers and sisters in Christ, whose burdens we have covenanted to co-bear and whom we have covenanted to show comfort. There will likely be work to be done in the future on both accounts.

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