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Russian Orthodox Church official calls for re-criminalizing homosexuality

Russian Orthodox Church official calls for re-criminalizing homosexuality

MOSCOW — An spokesperson for Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church called on the Russian government Friday to reintroduce Soviet-era laws banning homosexuality.

Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin cited recent polls show that more than 50 percent of adults in the Russian Federation views homosexuality as either an illness or a crime.

Vsevolod Chaplin
Vsevolod Chaplin

“There is no question that society should discuss this issue since we live in a democracy,” Chaplin said. “For this reason, it is precisely the majority of our people and not some outside powers that should decide what should be a criminal offense and what should not.”

Chaplin said that the proposal to ban gay sex reflects a firm defense of traditional values many Russians view as coming under attack from both European nations as well as the United States.

Last year, the Russian Duma approved a ban on what it termed “gay propaganda,” prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors.

A companion law banning the international adoption of Russian children by citizens in countries that recognize same-sex unions quickly followed. Both were quickly signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Chaplin and others in the church hierarchy don’t feel that the laws goes far enough.

“I am convinced that such sexual contacts should be completely excluded from the life of our society,” he said. “If we manage to do this through moral pressure, all the better. But if we need to revert to assistance from the law, then let us ask the people if they are ready for this.”

Chaplin, who heads the church’s Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, also warned that the legalization of same-sex unions in other countries will lead to the fall of Western civilization within the next 50 years.

Pavel Krasheninnikov, a member of Putin’s ruling party and a Deputy of the State Duma, said Chaplin’s call to reinstate the Soviet era law “will not be adopted — in part because of our international obligations,” referring to the European Convention on Human Rights of which Russia is signatory nation.

The Soviet Union had criminalized homosexuality in 1934 at the height of pogroms promulgated by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that saw millions of Soviet citizens die in prison camps. The law was repealed in 1993 by the government of then Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

“We have moved on from those times,” Krasheninnikov added.

While acceptance of gays increased in the 1990s, a poll conducted last fall by the Levada-Center, a Russian independent, non-governmental polling and sociological research organization, found that 74 percent of the population believes society should not accept homosexuality.

The poll revealed that only one in five Russians believe that people are actually born gay while one-third said homosexuality should be treated medically and only 13 percent supported the idea of making it a crime.

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