Orthodox Christians, Russian Muslims and Cossacks have joined forces in the south Russian city of Saratov in battling the efforts of local Mormons to build a temple in the city center, too close for comfort, they say, to an Orthodox church and a mosque.
Cossacks, Muslims, and Orthodox Christians rallied in the city center Saturday, Gazeta.ru reported. Demonstrators called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the name of the Mormon church — a “devilish, socially dangerous sect that spies for the CIA.”
The Mormon Church purchased a building in the city center in 2001 that happened to be close to both a mosque and a central Orthodox church. They plan to renovate the building, and use it for prayers. In a statement to Gazeta.ru, however, they denied that they were going to build a temple or a church.
A Muslim spokesman was quoted by the paper as saying that the Mormons will have “problems” if they build their church near the Mosque, because Russia’s Muslims oppose the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and the Mormons are viewed as an American sect.
As a result of the protests, however, their building license has been revoked by city authorities. Citing the Russian Constitution, which says that all religions have equal rights before the law, Mormon representatives appealed to city authorities to allow them to proceed.
They have since gotten no response.
A regional administration chief told the online newspaper that he has no intention of helping the Mormons get their building license back.
“I have respect for everyone who believes, but the Mormon teaching contradicts Russian traditions,” he said, echoing cries of protest Russians have issued against other religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hare Krishna.
In court, however, the Mormons have every chance to win, another source in the city administration was quoted as saying, because there protesters have no legal leverage and all the documents the Mormons have for renovating the building are in order.