SARATOV, Russia — A Russian Orthodox religious community in the southern Russia city of Saratov has issued an ultimatum to social media giant Facebook, demanding that the company stop “flirting with sodomites” and immediately remove all content “promoting homosexuality.”
The outcry resulted after after the popular social networking website introduced same-sex marriage status icons earlier this month: one depicting two brides, the other two grooms.
The group sent a fax to Facebook’s office in Moscow on Friday, and gave it 24 hours to fulfill its demands.
According to the fax, should the company refuse to comply, then the group stated that they will sue Russian internet service providers who give users access to Facebook content.
Russian News Portal TemaSaratov reported Wednesday that the group’s demands have been ignored by Facebook, and that the group has now begun an effort to collect signatures in support of returning a Soviet-era anti-gay article to the Penal Code of the country’s Federal Constitution.
The leader of the Orthodox group, Vladimir Roslyakovsky, told Russian media outlets that the group’s activists managed to obtain 34,000 signatures in just three days.
“The goal is to get the support of at least a million citizens,” he said, adding that Muslim, Catholic and Jewish communities are also participating in the campaign.
“Dealers who cash in on children have neither conscience nor religious beliefs. We demand only one thing: Facebook should be blocked in the entire country because it openly popularizes homosexuality among minors,” Roslyakovsky said, in a statement.
Roslyakovsky also told the Russian press that once a million signatures are collected, his group activists are also planning to submit an appeal to the State Duma (Russian Federal Parliament).
“The U.S. goal is that Russians stop having children. (They want) the great nation to turn into likeness of Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said.
According to Roslyakovsky, “Facebook has already affected a large number of inexperienced youngsters and it is not clear what they will be like when they grow up. But, I am confident that Russian laws and reasonable citizens will be able to protect their children from a fierce attack of sodomites.”
Homosexuality was a criminal offense during the Soviet era with the penalty being a jail sentence or being sent to a mental health “clinic” for evaluation.
The specific article of the criminal code was repealed during the era of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1993, but LGBT activists still are reporting numerous incidents of discrimination as well as homophobic behavior by government bodies.
This year, legislatures of several Russian regions — including St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Arkhangelsk — introduced laws and regulations that list “gay propaganda to minors” as an administrative offense that is punished by hefty fines.
Some Russian lawmakers have also suggested a similar move on a nationwide level, efforts that have the backing of the country’s powerful Russian Orthodox Church and other religious leaders.