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16977Russian Church spokesman: proposed harsher punishment for insults to religious feelings essential

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Sep 29 11:16 AM
      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=9912

      27 September 2012, 10:04
      Russian Church spokesman: proposed harsher punishment for insults to
      religious feelings essential

      Moscow, September 27, Interfax - A senior Russian Orthodox priest has
      defended a planned law to introduce stricter punishment for insulting
      the religious feelings of believers and vandalizing holy sites.

      "It's obvious that many in our society have been waiting for such an
      initiative. Except for several small but hyperactive elitist groups, it
      has developed a wide-scale consensus that present-day punishments for
      insulting the feelings of believers, objects, signs and emblems that
      they revere, and symbols of various world outlooks are patently
      insufficient," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synodal
      Department for Relations between Church and Society, told the
      Interfax-Religion.

      Today such offenses are punishable with fines from 500 to 1,000 rubles,
      he mentioned.

      Insulting believers' feelings, vandalizing holy sites and items that are
      venerated by adherents of any religion or supporters of any
      non-religious world outlook "is an act of utter public danger, which
      sets large strata of society against each other," Chaplin said.

      He mentioned that history records quite many bloody conflicts over symbols.

      "When someone topples a symbol that is very dear to and very significant
      for a religious or world outlook group, it means an attack on this
      entire group, an attempt to assert one's power over it, subjugate and
      humiliate it. Therefore a war against symbols always produces a very
      pained reaction, and one should remember that," he said.

      He mentioned that Russian law prescribes harsh penalties for
      non-religious offense and for vandalizing non-religious items. He cited
      ethnic and racial insults and vandalizing state symbols and graves.

      "But believers have exactly the same right to the defense of something
      that is infinitely dear to them - after all, we have equality of world
      outlooks and of world outlook groups," he said.

      "By the way, it's not bad that the draft law would offer a court quite a
      wide freedom of choice between a fairly mild and a pretty harsh penalty.
      Of course, in enforcing such a rule, a court must carefully investigate
      the circumstances of the case, study the motives, hear both the
      prosecution and the defense, take it into account whether this is the
      first time one has committed such an act. So the range of penalties that
      is being proposed would provide extensive opportunities both for
      clemency and for strictness," the priest added.