MINSK, Belarus — A court in Belarus fined a Protestant pastor about two weeks’ pay for conducting an off-site baptism service without government approval.
Dmitry Podlobko, pastor of Living Faith Church in Gomel, Belarus, was fined July 28 for a July 9 baptism service in a pool on his family’s land, reported Forum 18 News Service. He was fined about two days of wages in November 2021 for having baptized in a river without permission from Gomel District Executive Committee.
Living Faith Church is a registered congregation. However, according to Forum 18, any event to be held away from approved locations or registered worship sites must have the permission of the local executive committee.
Podlobko decided to baptize in the pool on his family’s land in July because he thought private property would be exempt.
Because this is his second infraction in less than a year, Podlobko fears the government’s religious affairs officials may take away the church’s legal status. Such a move is a punishment for repeat violations within a 12-month period.
According to the U.S. Department of State, religious freedom conditions in Belarus have deteriorated dramatically amidst a brutal government crackdown on civil society following widespread anti-government protests starting in August 2020. Since then, the regime of Alexander Lukashenko has purged Catholic and Orthodox Christian clergy critical of his authoritarian tactics, raided Catholic and Protestant worship services and publicly promoted anti-Semitic conspiracies and rhetoric.
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