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One headline on the December 21, 2022 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight claimed that "Zelensky has declared war against Christianity", referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Screenshot of TV show showing headline.

In this episode, Carlson says:

You will not hear a word on television tonight about the fact that Zelensky has banned an entire ancient Christian denomination in Ukraine, and then seized churches, and then thrown priests into jail.

What is the basis for these claims?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 3:38
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    Thanks everyone for the dialogue and discussion. It was helpful. The question I am now trying to seek an answer to is what the underlying motivation is for systematically misrepresenting this conflict, but that's off-topic here.
    – quant
    Commented Dec 25, 2022 at 7:00
  • Just FYI, @Mast the answers in the link you provided suggest that there is no official categorization of Fox News. They don't support your claim that "It's not a news network, it's an entertainment network."
    – redleo85
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 23:01
  • @redleo85 Just because there is no official categorization doesn't mean there's no support for the statement. But they can reach their own conclusion after reading it.
    – Mast
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 6:13
  • @Mast those were two independent sentences. The answers don't support your statement. After Reading the answers your conclusion seemed rather misleading.
    – redleo85
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 0:09

2 Answers 2

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The best way to tell a lie is to tell a partial truth.

It is true that the Ukrainian government has raided several churches associated with the Russian Orthodox Church. What Carlson failed to mention was that key elements in those raided churches were suspected of providing intelligence to Russia. Some of those churches are hotbeds of treacherous behavior.

It is true that Zelensky has proposed legislation to ban this particular church. What Carlson failed to mention was that Zelensky and his government do not have any issues with the Catholics and Protestants in Ukraine, or with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. What Carlson also failed to mention was that the Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church split in three branches. Two of those branches merged and asked for (and received) independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. This is the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The third branch (the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate) remains a part of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with which Zelensky and his government has a problem. Some of that church's members (including church leaders) are actively acting against the Ukrainian government and are providing intelligence to Russia regarding Ukrainian troop movements.

This is not "a war on Christianity". What it is is a war against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Some of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church churches are loyal to Ukraine, but others definitely are not.

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    A report on the different Orthodox churches in Ukraine, as well as the specific incidents that led to the proposed ban, can be found at isw.pub/UkrWar121422. Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 14:42
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    So, would it be appropriate to say that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church decided to side with a hostile foreign nation that de facto declared war against Ukraine?
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 16:01
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    @Schmuddi Parts of that church did just that. There's a split within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with some remaining loyal to Ukraine and declaring the Russian invasion as a criminal act. But other parts have remained loyal to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (who has very much supported Russia's activities) and are actively supplying intelligence to the Russian military. Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 16:14
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    It is not a war against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patrirchate (UOCMP). Soldiers are not fighting against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the latter does not have armed forced AFAIK. It's police and legal action against the UOCMP.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 16:36
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    It's not even a war on that church... It's just them conducting counter-intelligence operations against people who happen to be loyal to a foreign power... And those people happen to be a church Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 20:23
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This is an addition to the excellent answer by David Hammen in order to give more historic and local context.

During the time of the USSR, Russian Orthodox Church was essentially under a complete control of the state. Specifically, priests were reporting to KGB and often were KGB officers.

The arrangement was beneficial for the regime. On the one hand, they were letting a bit of steam go off as there are always some religious people even in a formally atheist state. On the other hand, the priests were providing an extremely valuable intelligence on the population, especially on the groups which were known for being disloyal.

If you look deeper into the history, you can see that strong ties between the Moscovian government and the Russian Orthodox Church can be traced back at least to the times of Ivan the Terrible, who was controlling the church with an iron grip.

With the fall of the USSR KGB got split and rebranded as FSB in Russia / SBU in Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church meanwhile remained tightly connected to the former KGB. Not everyone was happy with this. Simplifying a bit, this has resulted in a split within the church. Now there are multiple Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. For example, there is an Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is a result of unification of several orthodox churches in Ukraine.

The church which got a "special attention" from SBU these days is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Partiarchate. For a long time it has enjoyed pretty much an immunity and nobody dared to touch it. In the meantime, there were plenty of publicly known cases anti-Ukrainian activities ranging from not performing funerals for the fallen Ukrainian soldiers and telling the congregation that Ukraine must fall and be re-unified with "mother Russia" to cases where in the occupied territories the priests were helping the invaders to identify people who should be captured and houses which should be robbed first and gathering intel on Ukrainian forces for Russia.

It probably also did not help that during one of the raids a priest was caught in bed with a boy. This was hardly a surprise as this kind of behaviour is an open secret. For example, a famous Russian journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov (who used to study in Moscow Theological Academy) was talking about it for years. It is only now, however, that someone was publicly caught in the act.

So in Ukraine these raids by SBU are not seen as attacks on Christianity. In fact, people are very supportive of this. They even jokingly say that SBU ("СБУ" - "Служба Безбеки України" - "Ukraine's Security Service") is in fact "Служба Божа України" (Ukraine's God's/Godly Service). Many people are very happy indeed that this is happening, although they express unhappiness that it took decades for SBU to begin looking at this problem.

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