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Church of Scientology Moscow and others v. Russia, Nos., 37508/12, 61695/13, 16761/14, ECtHR (Third Section Committee), 14 December 2021


Church of Scientology in Russia. Seize and ban on literature, refusal to register the religious organization and its subsequent forced dissolution. Violation of Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR, read in the light of Article 9.

Normative references

Art. 9 ECHR
Art. 10 ECHR
Art. 11 ECHR



1. In its assessment of the interference with freedom of expression in cases concerning expressions alleged to encourage religious hatred or intolerance, the Court has to have regard, in particular, to the context in which the impugned statements were made, their nature and wording, their potential to lead to harmful consequences and the reasons adduced by the national courts to justify the interference in question. It is the interplay between the various factors rather than any of them taken in isolation that determines the outcome of a particular case.
2. The denial of registration and involuntary dissolution of a religious organization amounts to an interference with the rights a plurality of legal subjects under Article 11 of the Convention, read in the light of Article 9, as the decision by the authorities to dissolve an association affects directly both the targeted association and also its presidents, founders and members.
3. The dissolution of an association is an extremely severe measure entailing significant consequences which can only be tolerated in very serious circumstances. Therefore, the forced dissolution of a church in presence of any alternative sanctions constitutes a drastic measure, disproportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.
(In the present case, the Russian authorities have banned the dissemination of publications belonging to the Church of Scientology, inferring their extremist character. Furthermore, one of the applicant groups was denied an application for registration as a religious organization. Subsequently, the same group also incurred a dissolution order)


One of the applicants – the Church of Scientology Moscow – had been legitimately registered in 1994. In 1997, in order to comply with subsequent legal requirements, it was forced to make some organizational changes, intended to allow it access to a new registration. Having faced whit repeated denials from the Russian authorities, the organization had already applied to the Court of Strasbourg (Church of Scientology Moscow and Others v. Russia, n. 18147/02, First Section, 5 April 2007), which had found a violation of relevant provisions of the Convention