Friday, March 04, 2016

No freedom of religion in Russia

Being able to state your religious beliefs and pointlessly argue about them with other people is something we take for granted in New Zealand. But apparently, you can't do that in Russia:

A man in southern Russia faces a potential jail sentence after he was charged with insulting the feelings of religious believers over an internet exchange in which he wrote that “there is no God”.

Viktor Krasnov, 38, who appeared in court Wednesday, is being prosecuted under a controversial 2013 law that was introduced after punk art group Pussy Riots was jailed for a performance in Moscow’s main cathedral, his lawyer Andrei Sabinin told AFP.

The charges – which carry a maximum one-year jail sentence – centre on an internet exchange that Krasnov was involved in in 2014 on a humorous local website in his hometown of Stavropol.

“If I say that the collection of Jewish fairytales entitled the Bible is complete bullshit, that is that. At least for me,” Krasnov wrote, adding later “there is no God!”

One of the young people involved in the dispute with Krasnov then lodged a complaint against him accusing him of “offending the sentiments of Orthodox believers”.

As if prosecution wasn't enough, they tried to claim he was insane first (Russia having inherited the Soviet approach of politically abusing psychiatry). Because obviously, anyone who doesn't subscribe to legally enforced religious views must be mad. But if members of the dominant religion find the expression of dissent "offensive", it says more about their intolerance than anything else.

But before we feel too superior, remember: New Zealand still has a law against "blasphemous libel", which specifically protects the Anglican (and only the Anglican) religion, on the books. And our politicians have been too chickenshit to remove it, despite its obvious inconsistency with the right to freedom of religion affirmed by the BORA.