In remarks published last Sunday, the eve of Christmas in the Russian Orthodox calendar, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, urged the Russian government to take a careful approach in new legislation to respond to insults against religion. Reuters reports on the remarks made as the United Russia party introduced legislation imposing 3 to 5 year prison sentences for situations like the punk rock Pussy Riot protest last February in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. There the band members were charged with hooliganism instead of insulting religious feelings that carries only a minor fine. (See prior posting.) Ultimately 2 of the band members ended up with 2 year prison sentences. (See prior posting.) Kirill argued that the current small fine under Art. 5.26 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offenses for Insulting Religious Feelings of Citizens is not enough to indicate that society is serious about protecting believers. However, in a statement consistent with the position of President Putin, Kirill warned:
Any regulatory acts regarding the protection of religious symbols and the feelings of believers should be scrupulously worked through so that they are not used for improvised limitation of freedom of speech and creative self-expression.