The New York Times Called Those Who Brought What Were Essentially Blasphemy Charges Against Pussy Riot “Victims”


A few months ago, I signed up to give automated monthly donations to Amnesty International when I was told about how appallingly small their donations from America were. It is because of their advocacy on issues like this one that they need the support of all people committed to the principle of secularism worldwide:

Three young women have been sentenced to two years by Russian authorities for allegedly performing a protest song in a cathedral as part of feminist punk group “Pussy Riot”.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich were arrested in March 2012 and today found guilty of “hooliganism”.

Here is the performance they are going to jail for:

CNN has many more details.  Here (starting at 6:53) Dan Barker and Laurie Gaylor’s podcast Freethought Radio has information on some appalling New York Times Coverage which refers to a complaining churchman as a “victim”. Here was the New York Times coverage in question:

The three women have apologized, saying that they never intended to offend the church and that their “punk prayer” in February was intended as political criticism of Vladimir V. Putin, who was then running for president, and of Patriarch Kirill I, for supporting Mr. Putin.

But lawyers for victims in the case, including several people who work in the cathedral, have cast it entirely in religious terms, seizing on it as an opportunity to defend the church against perceived threats, including the heresy that they say pervades secular society, especially Russia’s liberal political opposition.

Here is what those “victimized” cathedral workers were saying in anticipation of the verdict that has now been rendered in their favor:

One victim, Pavel Zhelyezov, who works as an altar server in the cathedral, urged a tough sentence, saying it was needed to “defend the interests of all believing Orthodox Christians.”

“Our God-loving forefathers, who built churches and monasteries, did not do this just for prayer,” Mr. Zhelyezov said. “They put in their spiritual foundation, so that the Russian people, we and you, have immunity. So that we could stand, fight with our external enemies, our internal enemies.”

And another Orthodox leader who apparently is a “victim” in the broader sense had this to say:

“We’re going to rip them up and burn them,” said Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich, the white-bearded leader of one group, the Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers. “Like in the Middle Ages.”

Read Ophelia Benson’s coverage of this story in the posts: Swear words in a church and Uncomfortable with activist women. Taslima Nasreen has also expressed her outrage. Here is photographic coverage of vibrant protests for Pussy Riot in Berlin.

Sign this petition to advocate for these women’s rights to freely criticize religion and their government according to their conscience in Russia. Facebook, tweet, and blog the story. Write your country’s elected representatives and/or state department and let them know how outrageous you think what Russia is doing is and that you want your country to condemn their crackdown on free speech. And please consider providing tangible monetary support to the general cause of human rights worldwide by donating to Amnesty International.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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