06/26/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA

Joke award for the Patriarch of Moscow. The Duma wants tougher penalties for incitement to religious hatred

by Nina Achmatova
The majority party United Russia prepares amendments to the penal code to ensure that the Church is not the subject of satire or negative comments. The Patriarchate approves: it will help avoid civil war.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The awarding of an ironic prize to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill - for months at the center of controversy and media scandals - has sparked a strong reaction from the Russian Duma, where lawmakers plan to propose increased penalties for those who offend religious sentiment.  According to a report in the newspaper Izvestia, the deputies of the ruling party United Russia are preparing amendments to Article 282 of the penal code, which deals with '"incitement to hatred, hostility and humiliation of human dignity." The changes to the paper, says the deputy Alexey Zhuravlyov, "will define this offense more precisely and allow to bring to justice, for example, the organizers of the 'Silver Galosh' award. If the amendments are adopted", he added, "they risk either a fine of 300,000 rubles (7,250 euros) or one to two years in prison."

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church was recently awarded the "Silver Galosh", organized by the radio station Serebrjannaja dozhd and awarded annually to those who have acheived the most unlikely results in the world of showbiz.

According to the prize jury, Kirill won for "the immaculate disappearance" of a watch from his wrist, thanks to the airbrushing done by his press office. The reference is to a photo, published in April on the website of the Patriarchate, in which Kirill is sitting at the table with the Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov: the expensive Breguet on his wrist was not there, but you could see it reflected on the polished surface of the table under the Patriarch's arm. Russian bloggers had complained about the airbrushing and the case led to resignation of the press officer.

The award made even more noise because it was symbolically awarded by one of the leaders of the anti-Putin opposition, journalist Ksenia Sobchak, who "as a believer" said she was "offended by the behavior of the Patriarchate: from VIP passes to see the relic of the belt of the Virgin in Moscow, to the penalty for Pussy Riot", the girls in the punk band who for a performance that was deemed blasphemous, in Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, are now in prison.

It is precisely Pussy Riot, according to the deputy Zhuravlyov, that ought to be prosecuted under Art. 282 of the Penal Code for incitement to religious hatred, and not for mere "vandalism". Toughening penalties for those who insult or make fun of the Church, according to the politician, is important because in that way those who organize events such as the "Silver Galosh" award would think twice before doing so.

The amendments could be discussed in September in the autumn parliamentary session. Meanwhile, the Head of Department for relations between the Church and society, Vsevolod Chaplin, said that the Patriarchate is in full agreement with the legislative initiative. "These events are aimed at subverting power in society", said Chaplin, "to humiliate some and praise others. This can lead society to the brink of civil war."

 

 

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