Russia yields to religious and establishes the crime of blasphemy
An overwhelming majority of the Russian lower house, the Duma, adopted a law on June 11 repressing blasphemy. Concretely, it targets “public acts expressing disrespect towards society with the aim of offending the religious feelings of believers”. The penalties may range up to 11,500 euros or community service.
The logic of this law is not new (read this 2006 article in). It corresponds to the tendency of the power to want to strengthen the links between the Russian Orthodox Church and the State since the fall of atheistic communism. It also comes after a case that has deeply divided public opinion, including within the Church: the sentencing to prison of members of the Pussy Riot group after a demonstration last year in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. If young women heard protest against Putin’s power and collusion between church and state, they were sentenced for “religious hooliganism”, a terribly vague term. With the new law, which could come into force on July 1 if the upper house and the president sign it, this type of demonstration will be judged from the outset as “blasphemous”.
Ultimately , this new law raises the question of whether Russia is still a secular country. Even if the constitution guarantees equality before the law of all faiths and even if orthodoxy is not a state religion, the content of the new device practically recalls the anti-blasphemy laws in Pakistan and Egypt. Theoretically, any criticism of a particular religion could be attacked. There is a liberticide climate in Russia. On the same day as the vote of an anti-blasphemy law, the deputies adopted a device which severely punishes any act of homosexual ” propaganda” “with a minor”. In the eyes of the legislator, it is a question of “protecting the family” , but several organizations, including Human Rights Watch, see it as a form of homophobia and, more generally, an attack on freedom of expression.