Russian Orthodox Church Says Not All Atheists Are Criminals
Atheists, you have nothing to fear from Russia’s largest Christian group, according to Vakhtang Kipshidze, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, which respects both religious and non-religious views, he says.
On Monday evening, TV show host Vladimir Pozner made a direct appeal to President Vladimir Putin, Constitutional Court President Valery Zorkin and Patriarch Kirill, asking for a “comprehensive explanation” on whether the Atheism is a crime in Russia, where the justice system has frequently convicted atheist activists of offending clerics.
Last week, for example, a court in Yekaterinburg sentenced blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky to a 3.5-year suspended sentence for uploading videos to his YouTube channel, including one showing him playing Pokemon Go in a cathedral. Sokolovsky’s verdict cites that he “denies the existence of Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad”.
After the Sokolovsky trial, Pozner reminded his audience that he himself was an atheist and asked if it was illegal to tell people that he denies the existence of God.
“Verdicts like the decision in the Sokolovsky case,” the Russian Orthodox Church spokesman later told the RIA Novosti news agency, “do not happen because he has atheistic views, but because his statements addressed to the religious were disrespectful. It is about defending human dignity, not about persecuting a people who adhere to one worldview or another.
The Russian Constitutional Court’s press office declined to comment on Pozner’s question, telling reporters that he only responds to formal legal appeals.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, also declined to answer Pozner’s question, saying it was just rhetoric. Peskov also added that such legal matters are for Russian courts, not the executive branch of government.