STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights determined that Russian authorities discriminated against a Christian pastor for having a prayer gathering in his home.
Alliance Defending Freedom International, a human rights group that supported pastor Donald Ossewaarde in the case, announced the court’s March 7 judgment. The court held that the punishment, conviction and discrimination violated Articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
According to ADF International, on Aug. 14, 2016, Ossewaarde and his wife held a time of prayer and Bible reading in their home in Oryol, Russia, something they had done regularly. Anyone was welcome to participate. Three police officers attended, questioned other participants and took Ossewaarde to the police station.
Ossewaarde was convicted of doing missionary work and fined 40,000 roubles ($700).
Originally from Michigan, Ossewaarde had lived in Oryol since 2005.
The month prior to Ossewaarde’s arrest, Russia instituted an “anti-terrorism law” that made some missionary work a crime and allowed higher penalties to be imposed against foreigners.
After Russian courts upheld his sentence, Ossewaarde appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. That court ruled that missionary work (evangelism) and other acts of worship are protected religious freedoms.