Graham calls Soviet church 'free'
United States evangelist Billy Graham has capped a week-long visit to Moscow by suggesting that the church in the Soviet Union is freer, in a sense, than in Great Britain, Moscow correspondent Ned Temko reports.Skip to next paragraph
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Dr. Graham, replying to questions from Western journalists on departure May 13, said in remarks also picked up by the Soviet news agency Tass:
''I think there is a lot more freedom here than has been given the impression in the United States because there are hundreds, thousands of churches open.
''In other countries you have state churches. Here the church is not a state church. It is a free church, in the sense that it is not headed officially, as the church in England is headed by the Queen.''
After a brief stopover in Paris, Dr. Graham is due to fly to Britain May 14 to receive an award for his religious work.
In his airport remarks he also said he hoped to return to the Soviet Union and to preach ''from Siberia to the Black Sea.''
Soviet laws limit religious acitivity to those churches and associations registered with the authorities, and bars such activities as organizing of religious-study groups.
Religion also becomes illegal if it infringes on a Soviet statute preventing ''agitation or propaganda for purposes of undermining and weakening Soviet power , (or) the dissemination for the aforesaid purposes of slanderous fabrications that defame our state and social system. . . .''
There have been growing official calls of late for intensification of ''atheistic propaganda,'' often coupled with warnings that the West is seeking to use religion to weaken the Soviet system.