Europe / Faith and religion

Church leader seeks Russian vote to outlaw gay sex

Vsevolod Chaplin (Photo courtesy of RIA.ru)

Orthodox Church leader Vsevolod Chaplin is seeking a referendum to outlaw gay sex. (Photo courtesy of RIA.ru)

A leading official of the Russian Orthodox Church has proposed a national referendum on whether to again make gay sex a crime, as it was in Russia until 1993.

The government-funded Russia Today network reported on the official statement from Vsevolod Chaplin, who leads the church’s department for relations with society:

Vsevolod Chaplin maintains that gay relations between men pose a threat to the whole of society, but left it for the people to decide on the possible punishment for such actions.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department for relations with society has said in an official press comment that the question of criminalizing male homosexuality “deserved discussion in society without any doubt.” He added that since Russia is a democratic country, the majority of its people and not some “external forces” must decide what constitutes a criminal offence and what does not.

The cleric explained that public attitudes to homosexuality have varied at different times and in different societies, but the most widespread position was to treat such relations as a crime. Chaplin said he was convinced that male homosexual relations must be completely ruled out by society, but also noted that it was better to achieve this through moral persuasion.

“If we have to draw the law into this, let us ask the people if they are ready for this,” Chaplin stated, suggesting the question of criminalizing gay male contact be posed in a nationwide referendum.

Only last year, Russia enacted a law against speaking favorably about homosexuality in the presence of minors, which has led to widespread protests and a call for a boycott of next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Russia Today noted that calls for criminalization drew a harsh response:

The chairman of the Russian LGBT Network, Igor Kochetkov, blasted [a similar proposal by former priest Ivan] Okhlobystin and the Orthodox Church in press comments saying that the referendum suggestion was both legally wrong and immoral. He also likened calls to restore criminal punishment for male homosexuality to Russian legislation to the idea of reinstalling concentration camps for Jews in Germany.

Kochetkov noted that the inviolability of personal life was guaranteed by the Russian Constitution, and the suggested referendum could not be held as it directly contradicted that basic law.

One commenter on the Russian LGBT Network‘s Facebook page said of the proposal:

Nothing new in the Russian Orthodox cult. They killed my Jewish family in pogroms in the 1800s and if they could go after Jews again they would. Since they cannot, they are going after gays. They are using the same excuse they used to kill Jews.

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