Russian upper house passes bill to punish offense to religious feelings

"Causing offense to the feelings of religious believers" would carry a punishment up to three years in prison under a draft law passed by Russia's Federation Council on Wednesday.

"Public acts that manifest patent disrespect for society and are committed with the aim of offense to the religious feelings of believers" would be punishable with fines of a maximum of 300,000 rubles or the offender's salary for a maximum period of two years, compulsory labor for up to one year, or a maximum prison term of one year if such acts are committed outside places of worship or other religious sites.

If they are committed on religious sites, penalties would be higher under the planned law, which needs presidential endorsement and is expected to come into force on July 1.

Maximum fines would go up to 500,000 rubles or an equivalent of the offender's salary for up to three years, the maximum period of forced labor would be three years, so would be the maximum prison term, and there may also be post-imprisonment restrictions on one's freedom for up to one year.

All these would be mandated by draft amendments to Article 148 of the Criminal Code, "obstruction of the exercise of the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of worship."

Another part of the bill deals with "deliberate public acts of vandalism" against religious literature, "items of religious veneration" or religious symbols, deliberate damage to them or their deliberate destruction.

Such acts would carry fines of 30,000 to 50,000 rubles or compulsory labor for a period of up 120 hours for ordinary people and fines of between 100,000 and 200,000 rubles for officials.

The planned law would also raise the maximum fine for the obstruction of religious activities as allowed by Article 148 to 300,000 from 80,000 rubles.

Those who use their official position for committing such an offense would be fined a maximum of 200,000 rubles or an equivalent of their salary for a maximum of one year, or would face "corrective labor" for up to two years or a maximum prison term of one year.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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