The Russian Duma Moves Toward New Blasphemy Law

220px-PhilipandNikonThe Russian State Duma has reportedly moved forward with new legislation pushed by the Putin government to criminalize blasphemy — a measure designed to please the Russian Orthodox church. As we have discussed previously, Putin has reestablished the link with the Church to crack down on critics and nonbelievers. The new law purportedly protects religious feelings of believers.

For many years, I have been writing about the threat of an international blasphemy standard and the continuing rollback on free speech in the West. For recent columns, click here and here and here.

The government will now arrest those who insult religion in Russia with a fine of up to 300 thousand rubles, or community service for up to 200 hours or by imprisonment for up to 3 years.

It is part of a global crackdown on agnostics and atheists. We have previously discussed how even Western leaders have demonized secularists and atheists.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) presented a report on how governments are imposing the death penalty on atheists in countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Here is the IHEU report: IHEU Freedom of Thought 2012

Just yesterday, I listened to the latest attack on agnostics and secularists by former Utah governor Mike Leavitt as part of the conference on religious liberty. It is the latest conference held by the Center on Constitutional Studies headed by Rick Griffin. Griffin has created a remarkable academic program that has brought national attention to Utah Valley University and its new academic program on constitutional studies. This conference has been extraordinary with panels that spanned the historical and legal issues surrounding the religion clauses. I spoke yesterday as well with Harvard’s Noah Feldman, Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College and others. I will speak again today.

Leavitt’s speech last night was one of the highlighted events at the conference. While there were moderate aspects to his speech, particularly in his reference to the abuse of gay students in Utah, he warned about a war on faith by secluralists, agnostics, and atheists who he described as cunning in their effort to demonize faith. The speech fit within the pattern of Western leaders vilifying secularists, including a warning of the rise of Americans who do not associate with any particular faith. Leavitt insisted that the decline of public expression of faith would lead to the loss of liberty.

While Leavitt’s speech was troubling, it was part of a program that succeeded in bringing together a variety of different views of the role of religion in American public life. Though I am at odds with many of the things that Leavitt said, I have enjoyed the interaction with participants on these issues. It is too rare to have rivaling views and speakers actually engage in dialogue in this area. (As an aside, I also have to say that I was bowled over by the talent demonstrated by the music program at UVU. Last night featured the school’s orchestra, choir, and individual singers. It was an incredible performance by these students).

As Leavitt spoke of how the decline of public support for faith was a harbinger for the loss of liberty, I could not help but think of the irony of the actions that day in Russia. Faith has often been used to silence critics of governments by feeding sectarian anger and alliances. Orthodoxy appeals to those who want to limit free speech and associations that challenge the status quo.

Secular values in government is not the rejection but the protection of faith. The separation of faith and government guarantees neutrality in the treatment of faith. As discussed previously, faith-based organization do face legitimate threats from the expansion of anti-discrimination and other laws. However, this is not the result of some hidden conspiracy of secularists but the conflict between free exercise and equal treatment. We can make little progress in resolving that conflict if leaders continue to attack secularists and non-believers as destructive to liberty itself.

Source: Google

29 thoughts on “The Russian Duma Moves Toward New Blasphemy Law”

  1. I sort of doubt the ability of modern governments to truly outlaw blasphemy and stay in power. I mean, anymore a nation’s only as strong as it’s science, and if it’s one thing history has taught us is that one man’s blasphemy is another man’s truth discovered by careful observation of the universe and careful checking of predictions.

    “Gotta love Lazarus Long ”

    No, no you don’t. You can ask Gene, I’m about as into Science fiction as you can get, but I can go on at length about all the problems I have with Heinlein’s novels (the short stories are much better).

    I’ve never understood the love of Lazarus Long that other people seem to have. My theory is that he was a character that was openly hostile to religion in a time where that was much less acceptable. Luckily for me, I have access to books with characters that skewer religion AND have women with actual personality outside of “I’m feisty. I make a joke before I give the male protagonist exactly what he wants.” For that matter, I can just watch House , now THERE’s a cranky and horny character I can get behind.

    Plus Hugh Laurie wrote a great book, and does a decent “St. James Infirmary” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiNpjhvr97M

  2. Gene H. said:

    “I’m sorry. Did I let the cat out of the bag on this ultimately being an issue of men trying to control other men?”

    As a matter of fact, Charles Sanders Peirce illuminated the issue most thoroughly in his classic essay, “The Fixation of Belief” (Popular Science Monthly, 12 November, 1877):

    [Whatever a man thinks, he] will find that other men think differently from him, and it will be apt to occur to him, in some saner moment, that their opinions are quite as good as his own, and this will shake his confidence in his belief. This conception, that another man’s thought or sentiment may be equivalent to one’s own, is a distinctly new step, and a highly important one. It arises from an impulse too strong in man to be suppressed, without danger of destroying the human species. Unless we make ourselves hermits, we shall necessarily influence each other’s opinions; so that the problem becomes how to fix belief, not in the individual merely, but in the community. [emphasis added]

    Peirce went on to describe in great detail what “men trying to control other men” truly means in practice:

    Let the will of the state act, then, instead of that of the individual. Let an institution be created which shall have for its object to keep correct doctrines before the attention of the people, to reiterate them perpetually, and to teach them to the young; having at the same time power to prevent contrary doctrines from being taught, advocated, or expressed. Let all possible causes of a change of mind be removed from men’s apprehensions. Let them be kept ignorant, lest they should learn of some reason to think otherwise than they do. Let their passions be enlisted, so that they may regard private and unusual opinions with hatred and horror. Then, let all men who reject the established belief be terrified into silence. Let the people turn out and tar-and-feather such men, or let inquisitions be made into the manner of thinking of suspected persons, and when they are found guilty of forbidden beliefs, let them be subjected to some signal punishment. When complete agreement could not otherwise be reached, a general massacre of all who have not thought in a certain way has proved a very effective means of settling opinion in a country. If the power to do this be wanting, let a list of opinions be drawn up, to which no man of the least independence of thought can assent, and let the faithful be required to accept all these propositions, in order to segregate them as radically as possible from the influence of the rest of the world.

    This method [of fixing community belief] has, from the earliest times, been one of the chief means of upholding correct theological and political doctrines, and of preserving their universal or catholic character. … [W]herever there is a priesthood — and no religion has been without one — this method has been more or less made use of. Wherever there is an aristocracy, or a guild, or any association of a class of men whose interests depend, or are supposed to depend, on certain propositions, there will be inevitably found some traces of this natural product of social feeling. Cruelties always accompany this system; and when it is consistently carried out, they become atrocities of the most horrible kind in the eyes of any rational man. Nor should this occasion surprise, for the officer of a society does not feel justified in surrendering the interests of that society for the sake of mercy, as he might his own private interests. It is natural, therefore, that sympathy and fellowship should thus produce a most ruthless power. [emphasis added]

    I suspect that attendees at the so-called conference on religious liberty have never read Peirce, nor do they in fact know what they really mean by “belief.” By “belief” they mean (whether they realize it or not) “the extermination of doubt,” which of course means the elimination of the only natural basis for real thinking in regard to any subject. Thus, when they speak of “religious liberty” they in fact employ an Orwellian oxymoron which translates (in Oldspeak) to mean “intellectual slavery.” As Peirce said of such willful doubt-exterminators: “If it is their highest impulse to be intellectual slaves, then slaves they should remain.” For his part, Orwell simply compressed the entire phenomenon of coerced religious conformity into the Party slogan: “Freedom is Slavery,” which, by the way, would have made a wonderful title for the conference.

  3. Gene H:

    “Your organizations can only protect those who rape children and ask for money today for a salvation you’ll gladly deliver next Tuesday …”

    ********************

    Loving the Wimpy reference!

  4. Frankly,

    “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the laws but in yourself.”

    ***********************

    A man after my own heart, you forgot the punchline:

    “”The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

    ~Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

  5. Gene H:

    That email system is a nightmare. I’ll never check that box again. Hey, at least we know joan got your suggestion.

  6. joan,

    That is an automated function of WordPress. If you’ve unfollowed and are still getting emails, then you need to take it up with them. There is no way from the user (blog owners) to edit mailings on that system. WordPress.org has a trouble ticket system at their site.

  7. Please take me off your list, I have requested to unfollow your emails, there are too many.

  8. I was raised a catholic, six years of grammar school, 4 years of high school. The baltimore catechism was taught to me
    I was 7 years old and my soul would burn forever in hell if I did not follow some of the teachings in it. WOW !!
    Scaring the Crap out of little kids, … sort of a boot camp for fanatic catholicism.
    I have read heard and seen (not experienced) the situations of 7 year olds raised in baptist faith. I got off lucky!
    Boot camps for fanatic baptists.
    Religious Freedom is the opportunity to choose the faith you practice, and or the opportunity to choose no religious faith.

    The US constitution guarantees in stated law

    The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

    Obviously the Constitution does not grant this right to 7 year old children.
    Promoting blasphemy laws is an attempt to take this right away from Adults.

  9. From no faith in a God to some faith… It’s a turn alright……

  10. OS, Gotta love Lazarus Long for short, pithy, stabbings of pretensions and gasbaggery!

    How pitifully weak your God must be to be unable to withstand my expression on non-belief! He I am, nearly an invalid, a mere mortal with no followers yet you want me to believe my public expression of disbelief makes the creator of all heaven and earth tremble. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the laws but in yourself.

  11. Some of the other participants of the UVU seminar:

    Matthew J. Franck of the conservative Witherspoon Institute contends same sex marriage is indefensible in his book, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. Here’s his definition of marriage: ” … marriage as the comprehensive, complementary union of man and woman ordered to the begetting and rearing of children, the future members of society….” Ok folks get procreating for the state or your marriage is void.

    Daniel Dreisbach of American University, contends Jefferson meant his wall of separation to exist only as between the national government and the citizens and that individual states are free to impose their own religion on their citizens. He contends the letter from the Danbury Baptists to Jefferson was merely a valentine to the third President and allowed a softball reply that was not comprehensive enough to suit him.

    Vincent P. Munoz of the University of Notre Dame says in his book, God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson, that the US Supreme Court gets it wrong every time in citing the founders for support of the concept of the separation between church and state. Munoz says there was no consensus among the founders and that he knows best. He contends Washington’s Farewell Address contains a “definitive political statement” in “defense of government support of religion.” Really? It’s a revelation!

    Mark L. Rienzi of the Catholic University of America is an anti-abortion zealot seeking now to overturn a Massachusetts’ law providing a buffer zone around abortion clinics to permit civic minded religious protestors to assail women as they enter the clinics for abortions with pictures of fetuses and chants of “murderer.” He also wants to stop pharmacists from dispensing morning after pills to people who want them.

    Like I said “religious weeds.” Stink weeds, in fact. BTW, UVU is a former vocational school turned community college turned four year institution turned graduate school university. It is accredited but refuses to participate in US News’s review of universities and offers such rigorous study programs as auto repair and culinary arts. Well, apparently the choral group is good.

  12. “He warned about a war on faith by secluralists, agnostics, and atheists who he described as cunning in their effort to demonize faith.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Wb9cSHo4rQ

    And what Voltaire and Heinlein said. If zealots of any stripe want to place blame for demonizing faith, they need look no further than a mirror. Your organizations can only protect those who rape children and ask for money today for a salvation you’ll gladly deliver next Tuesday and continue advocate killing and oppression of “the other” for so long before people have just had enough and seek their faith elsewhere or abandon it. Cause and effect. The religious institutions are what is becoming irrelevant so you scramble to cling to your vestiges of power by attempting to use the force of law to enforce your dogmas. No one is saying you have to believe a certain way, but you should learn to mind your own damn business when it comes to other’s choices. The secularism you bemoan in government and private lives isn’t a sword used against your lil’ clubs. It’s a shield that protects your members right to chose their faith as their conscience dictates, not as you dictate.

    I’m sorry. Did I let the cat out of the bag on this ultimately being an issue of men trying to control other men? The deception that your particular “God” gives you an exclusive corner on redemption and virtue and truth is like all deceptions: transitory.

  13. Professor.

    Could you add in brackets after the first use of “UVU” the full name for which it stands.

  14. Looking over the seminar participants it seems to me that JT is the rose in that bouquet of religious weeds. UVU has assembled a cast of religious academics from all over to root on their particular church. I suspect , as keynote speaker, Leavitt was the first in the line of church bound cheerleaders espousing the value of freeing folks to become members of their brand of religion. Why not have a fair fight? Sam Harris has a mouth and frequent flyer miles.

  15. Levitt is one of those people who fails to even sniff the irony of his own words. Governor of a state founded on religious corruption and dominated by that corruption, he seeks to convince us that orthodoxy is the path to true freedom. Tyranny as the medium for liberty. It’s an old delusion sold by every discipline huckster in an effort to subjugate others for power and profit. He calls to mind Voltaire’s classic quip that “Of all religions, the Christian should of course inspire the most tolerance, but until now Christians have been the most intolerant of all religions.”

  16. Of all the strange crimes that humanity has legislated out of nothing, blasphemy is the most amazing – with obscenity and indecent exposure fighting it out for second and third place. [Robert Heinlein, Notebooks of Lazarus Long]

    The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by H.Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the sacharrine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not recieve this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history. [Robert Heinlein]

  17. So if someone’s religion included free speech, this law would make itself blasphemous and illegal?

  18. With regard to Russia, it is sad that the same underlying repression is there but interesting how the method has done a 180 in its prosecution.

    When I was in the USSR back in the mid 1980’s I visited some Eastern Orthodox Churches in Zagorsk and areas nearby. I managed to talk with one of the church officials who spoke English. He pointed out to me how officials of the state were engaging in a practice of reuiring icons to be painted over and some more open signs of religioius murals were taken down. He felt the government was trying to slowly repress the church regulating it more and more each year. I saw for myself what this was like and could see it happening. From what I gathered by that experience and in reading other sources the USSR regarded religion as a possible threat to the state and to preserve the political status quo the churches were targeted.

    Now, it seems the church is being used to continue to repress people’s dissent under the auspices of blasphemy. Again the goal is the same, the suppression of dissent, just the method is different.

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