If you’ve ever heard of the punk-art group Pussy Riot, then you may already know about Russia’s controversial law that prohibits anyone from “offending the sentiments of Orthodox believers.”
The law was implemented in 2013 after three members of Pussy Riot were convicted of offending Orthodox believers during a performance at the Orthodox Church in Moscow.
Now Viktor Krasnov, who is from Southern Russia, faces a one-year prison sentence for the same crime because he wrote, “there is no God” during an online conversation on a humorous website.
Considering Russia’s constitution has a section about religious freedom, the Editorial Board thinks Russia needs to protect the feelings of all religions, not just Orthodox Christians.
The Editorial Board understands the value Russia places on the feelings of Orthodox Christians.
We simply think Russia needs to take the next step and extend that value to the feelings of all religious groups. Russia should probably start with protecting the feelings of atheists.
Krasnov was charged with this religious crime after one of the people Krasnov was speaking to online accused him of “offending the sentiments of Orthodox believers.”
As if being accused of the crime and facing prison time weren’t enough, Krasnov had to spend a month in a psychiatric facility after making his atheist comment online.
Krasnov was released after he was pronounced sane.
It is safe to say that Orthodox Christians were persecuted for their religion during the Soviet regime. It’s also understandable for Orthodox Christians to be sensitive about what others say about their religion.
That being said, it definitely is not okay for the Russian government to legally protect the feelings of Orthodox believers and not the feelings of other religions.
Although Russia has no state religion, the dominant religion is the Russian Orthodox Church, which is a branch of Christianity.
As of 2008, 72 percent of Russia’s population reported as Orthodox Christian according to the Pew Research Center.
While Orthodox Christian is currently the dominant religion, it is important to note Russia’s tumultuous religious history to fully understand why Orthodox Christians get special treatment from the government.
Orthodox Christianity was dominant in Russia for centuries until the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and state propagation of atheism.
From 1917 until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the Russian state imprisoned many Orthodox priests, demolished or converted churches into government buildings and essentially blacklisted people from obtaining prominent jobs for professing non-atheist religious sentiments.
Once the USSR was dissolved and Russia became the Russian Federation in 1991, the Orthodox Church was rebuilt, and the number of Orthodox Christian believers rose significantly.
After all, there is no state religion in Russia, and the freedom of religion is in their Constitution.
There is also no indication that Krasnov was trying to offend Orthodox Christians specifically.
If anything, Krasnov’s “there’s no God” comment offends all religious beliefs other than atheism.