‘Blasphemy Bill’ Signals Return to 18th-Century Morals, Activists Say

By on May 17, 2013

Rights activists on Thursday ridiculed the notion that Russia is a secular state, saying draft legislation seeking tougher penalties for offending believers’ feelings shows the country is returning to 18th-century morals.

“Officials and religious leaders are leading us back to Peter the Great’s times,” Viktor Bondarenko, founder of rights group Russia for Everyone, said at a news conference held just a stone’s throw from Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

“We are witnessing, or have witnessed, a clerical coup,” he said. “The Russian Orthodox Church is flouting the Constitution at will, openly and cynically violating the principle that all ethnic and religious groups should be treated equally.”

Banned under the Soviet Union, the Orthodox Church has flourished over the past two decades, assuming pride of place among the country’s many faiths.

Since returning for a third term last May, President Vladimir Putin has increasingly presented himself as a champion of traditional Russian values, while Patriarch Kirill, Russia’s top religious official, has declared Putin’s 13-year rule a “miracle of God.”

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