July 14, 2010

Media Smear Campaign Against the Russian Orthodox Church

Orthodox Church Denies Seeking To Prosecute Russians For Heresy

by Tsvetelina Miteva
July 14, 2010
RIA Novosti

The Russian Orthodox Church has never pushed to make heresy a criminal offense and described media reports about this as a part of "smear campaign" against the Church, a source from the Church's press department said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, several online editions reported that the Russian Criminal Code would soon be amended. They quoted Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's press office, as saying the new article would punish heresy with imprisonment of up to six years.

The influence of the Russian Orthodox Church has risen dramatically over the last decade. Opposition journalists and non-Orthodox religious groups criticize the Church for actively implanting its ideology in schools and universities as well as for lobbying government business interests.

"Even when the power of the Orthodox Church was at its peak and the Church persecuted dissidents, even in those medieval times, introducing criminal prosecution for heresy was impossible," the source told RIA Novosti on condition of anonymity.

"This report is absolutely untrue, Mr. Chaplin could have never said such things," the source said, calling the report "part of a smear campaign aimed at tarnishing the image of the Russian Orthodox Church."

The source suggested Chaplin's words might have been seriously distorted in order to misrepresent the Orthodox Church amid heated debates over the controversial Forbidden Art-2006 exhibition scandal, the source said.

Religious groups accused the show's curators of defacing religious symbols and fueling national hatred. Many of the exhibits featured blasphemous images of Jesus Christ. In one, he had a Mickey Mouse head and in another his head had been replaced by an Order of Lenin medal.

The exhibit organizers were fined a total of $11,000.

Read also:

Art Censorship in Russia

Reactions to the “Forbidden Art 2006” Verdict

Moscow Court Passes Guilty Verdict To Forbidden Art-2006 Exhibition Organizers

Forbidden Art-2006 Exhibition Organizers To Pay Fine

Images of the "Forbidden Art"