American Religious Right and Russian Orthodox Leaders are Colluding in Putin’s Persecution of Gay People

American Religious Right and Russian Orthodox Leaders are Colluding in Putin’s Persecution of Gay People September 24, 2013

With the disgusting acquiescence of the Russian Orthodox bishops, Vladimir Putin has accomplished what Sarah Palin, Franklin Graham and Michele Bachmann could only dream of doing in America. He’s made it okay to persecute gay people people in Russia. As Adam Lee notes, Putin has built his power base of corruption and terror with the help of the religious and conservative elements of his society. He’s become expert at courting the alliance of the Russian Orthodox Church. And here in America conservatives are lining up to defend Putin. For instance writing in The American Conservative, in an article called Culture War Goes Global, (August 13, 3013) Patrick J. Buchanan writes:

As Father Regis Scanlon writes in Crisis Magazine, in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated Catholic doctrine that homosexuality is a “strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” an “objective disorder.” That homosexual acts are unnatural and immoral remains Catholic teaching. Thus, if we seek to build a Good Society by traditional Catholic and Christian standards, why should not homosexual propaganda be treated the same as racist or anti-Semitic propaganda? …. “The adoption of Christianity,” declared Putin, “became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland, made it an inseparable part of the Christian civilization and helped turn it into one of the largest world powers.” Anyone ever heard anything like that from the Post, the Times, or Barack Hussein Obama?


In my new book is And God Said, “Billy!”I invented a character of a Russian Orthodox monk who is open, enlightened and pro gay. I based him on several wonderful Orthodox priests and monks I know like Father Antony of St. Mary’s Orthodox church in Cambridge MA and monk and bishop Archbishop Lazar Puhalo in Canada, as well as several monks I met on Mount Athos in Greece. Sadly in reality my monk is mostly a fiction, just as Fr. Antony and Lazar Puhalo are embattled minorities and often denounced as heretics or worse by conservative Orthodox in the North American Orthodox community of leaders.

I invented my monk in And God Said, “Billy!” for literary reasons, story reason and also because I wish it were so! In reality, unlike my fictional monk, who saves my character Billy, the leaders in religion these days, including Orthodox and evangelical religion, too often side with the oppressor.

Frank Schaeffer God Said Billy

A parade of priests have denounced any who question Putin. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, took to TV to say that “liberalism will lead to legal collapse and then the Apocalypse.” On another occasion, he called Putin’s rule “a miracle.” When convening the heads and senior members of 15 Orthodox Churches for an unprecedented meeting at the Kremlin in the summer of 2013, Putin praised the moral authority of the church. “It is important that relations between the state and the church are developing at a new level,” Putin said in televised remarks, with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill by his side. “We act as genuine partners and colleagues to solve the most pressing domestic and international tasks, to implement joint initiatives for the benefit of our country and people,” he told the clerics.

Alongside Kirill, those present included Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria, Theophilos III of Jerusalem and Ilia II of Georgia. Also present were the heads of the Bulgarian, Serbian, Polish and Cypriot Orthodox Churches. Together they represented more than 227 million faithful. To my knowledge not one American Orthodox bishop protested this meeting. I’m reminded of the silence of most of the German churches during the rise of Hitler.

As a member of the Orthodox Church, in this case the Greek Orthodox Church, I’m ashamed. Where are the voices of Orthodox leadership, not only in Russia but here, denouncing this awful man and the terror he’s unleashing against gay men and women? Putin has presided over show-trial prosecutions of political opponents and reformers. He’s used the full weight of his government against artists who mock religion. He’s encouraged the liquidation of crusading journalists who have been beaten and murdered. Putin and his government may have been directly involved in at least one such killing.

A gay rights supporter is beaten to the ground.

Now with the approval of the Russian bishops Putin is inventing a new invented enemy to distract attention from his fascist take over of Russia: Russia’s LGBT men and women. As Adam Lee, a writer living in New York City points out in an article published by Alternet, Putin’s “parliament” passed increasingly draconian anti-gay laws. Russian activists have even been arrested for just holding up a signs reading “Gay is normal.”

A bill now under consideration would take away children (both adopted and biological) from gay and lesbian parents. With the Russian Church, parliament and Putin saying that LGBT people aren’t fully human, homophobes in Russia are emboldened. The torture and murder of gay people, by gangs of skinheads assaulting gay-rights protestors in public, with the police looking on,is happening. And American evangelical Christians think this is all great. So, apparently judging by their silence, do American Orthodox church leaders.

NOW American evangelical and Roman Catholic right-wing haters are climbing aboard the Russian hate parade .As cited by Adam Lee we find that–

  • On the Christian news site OneNewsNow, is the headline, “Russia sees America’s error, may ban public homosexuality.” It quotes Tim Todd, the head of Revival Fires International Ministries and an “evangelist who works in Russia,” as saying he “believes the move afoot there to ban the public display of homosexuality is because the nation’s leaders–both political and religious–have seen the damage American culture has suffered from the homosexual movement.”
  • Linda Harvey, founder of the anti-gay hate group Mission America, said on her radio program that Christians should pray for the Russian laws to continue, saying that by forbidding gay pride parades and adoption by gay couples, “they are protecting kids… What responsible adult would have a problem with keeping kids on a path of high moral standards?”
  • Peter LaBarbera, an anti-gay evangelical and head of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, said, “Russians do not want to follow America’s reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth” (source) and sneered at the idea of offering asylum to Russian LGBT people.
  • Bill Owens, the religious liaison of the National Organization for Marriage, sent out an e-mail saying he was “intrigued” by the Russian law and saw it as a sign of Russia’s leaders “attempting to stem the tide of moral decline.” He also said, “I applaud the Russians for taking a stand for children!”
  • Bryan Fischer, spokesman for the American Family Association, said he wholeheartedly supports the Russian law and has said that, if anything, it doesn’t go far enough: “Heterosexuality is God’s design. Policies that encourage young people to think this are good ideas.”
  • Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, wrote in an editorial for the Daily Caller that “there is no human right to teach school children about sexual practices, neither is there a human right to parade your sexual preferences and practices down public streets.” He also said he “admire[s] some of the things they’re doing in Russia” and that he plans to travel there to meet with government officials to offer his support.
  • Another CFHRI official, Stefano Gemmarini, praised Russia for barring gay pride parades and seemingly implied that some of the fines laid out in the bill aren’t severe enough, saying “$155 is hardly unmanageable for homosexuals who want to kiss in public.”
  • The World Congress of Families, a Christian-right group based in Illinois, plans to hold its 2014 annual conference at the Kremlin in a show of support for the Russian laws. The WCF website says that Russia, “with its historic commitment to deep spirituality and morality, can be a hope for the natural family supporters from all over the world.” A WCF spokesman, Larry Jacobs, added that “Russia could be a great ally for conservatives” and cheered its anti-gay laws as a “great idea” (source).
  • Another American anti-gay group, MassResistance, has praised the Russian laws and said that a mob of thugs who assaulted gay-rights protestors were “provoked” by the protesters kissing in public. This is the same group that’s praised a draconian anti-gay Nigerian law.
  • Scott Lively, an American evangelical who helped draft the proposed Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill (and who’s being sued in Massachusetts for crimes against humanity because of it), conducted a speaking tour in Russia in 2007 and has praised the anti-LGBT laws for reflecting ideas he advocated at the time. He’s said that “Russia could become a model pro-family society” and went so far as to say that Russia “is becoming a beacon of freedom to those who love God’s design for the family” (source).

The religious right is working to export American-style culture war hate. The far right in America is publicly approving the Russian murder/torture/expelling and harassment of gay men and women. Where are the Orthodox bishops speaking out and denouncing the Russian church for colluding with this regime? Where are the evangelical leaders in the big Christian colleges, the publications, like Christianity Today, and World magazine calling out the evangelicals working to make Putin’s terror acceptable to Americans?

I’m grateful to Senator John McCain for telling it like it is in an oped he wrote exposing Putin. I’m shocked by the silence of people calling themselves Christians, most especially the leaders of the Orthodox Church worldwide, not to mention the anti-gay bigots who run the religious right here in America. Truth is, they can’t get away with the level of hate practiced in Russia against gay people, but I have the suspicion that right wing Christians in America and maybe some of our Orthodox bishops, wish they could similarly crush our gay brothers and sisters here, and are vicariously standing right there next to the skinheads of Russia and putting in the boot on defenseless human beings. All in the name of Jesus of course.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is And God Said, “Billy!” Click HERE to buy it for only $3.99 on Kindle (available in paperback too).

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