Pokemon Go player faces up to 3.5 years in Russian penal colony over blasphemy law

    
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Avec les hommes et le Pokey.

A 22-year-old Russian vlogger is facing prison time for playing Pokemon Go inside a church.

Last summer, Ruslan Sokolovsky recorded himself playing Pokemon Go on his phone in the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg, noting on the recording that he couldn’t see how his actions could offend anyone. When the video went viral, Russian authorities detained Sokolovsky and charged him with inciting religious hatred. His trial began in March; he now faces a potential 3.5 year sentence. The verdict will be determined on May 11th.

“I believe that there is no reason to exempt the defendant from liability,” a Russian state prosecutor said, according to Sky News, one of many publications reporting on the surreal nature of the trial. “There is also no reason to sentence him to a fine … I request that the court sentence him to three-and-a-half years in a penal colony.”

As Sky News points out, this is the same blasphemy law used to prosecute Russian punk band Pussy Riot, three members of which were convicted — amidst considerable international outrage — of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and imprisoned for several years following an anti-Putin performance in an Orthodox cathedral.

Source: Sky. Thanks, Nordavind!
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Frank White

Just when you’re thinking how lucky you were to be living in a Christian country, as opposed to an Islamic one. This is a good reminder that once upon a time life under “the Church” could be just as harsh and dangerous as living under Sharia Law today – and just when you think all that nasty business is a thing of the past, you see stuff like this to remind you that history really does tend to repeat itself.

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Nathan Aldana

sounds about right. Putin’s been a master class in how to wear the trappings of religion to use it as a sledgehammer against dissent while the religious praise you for being pious.

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Melissa McDonald

He very wisely realized that Russia was doomed without Orthodoxy, because their birth rates are practically (if not) into the negative.
“When the religion dies, the people die.” – Pat Buchanan, “The Death of the West”

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McGuffn

“How did it happen that the VVMF could settle on a ditch on the Mall and a black Wall of Shame as fitting memorial to those that served?” — Pat Buchanan, “An Insulting Memorial”

Perhaps Putin should focus on making the country a nice place to live and have children, instead of punishing and even killing critics and using the power of the state to loot the country’s wealth.

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Bruno Brito

Dude. No. What people believe and what they are, are two different things. You’re being led by pre-conceptions.

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Bruno Brito

Where was assuming that religion is simply a group of personal practices without scientific basis to prove it, something disrespectful and hateful?

I’m not picking sides here, but my experience with religious people ( my family is full of them ) is that a lot of them can’t accept having their faith criticized.

Thing is: This world gives you no right to have no opinions criticized if you voice them. The concept of safespace isn’t something that works in the real world.

You have the right to believe in whatever you want, so does Mana. I didn’t see the disrespect tho. What i saw was people getting defensive on the spot.

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Melissa McDonald

A fine would be more appropriate imho. Local laws are just that, not our place really to tell other people what their values should be. I don’t think playing Pokémon go in a church could be much of a ‘hate crime’. Maybe playing Diablo ;) lol

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rafael12104

Heh. I’ve been busy today and missed this one.

IMO, @Sally Bowls is closest to what I think is really going on here. Blasphemy Laws in general aren’t the issue here. It is the discretionary use of such laws that is the real travesty.

Based on what I’m reading here, the pokevid went viral and then the state decided to act. IMO blasphemy laws have no place in a free society. But Russia is hardly that. And yet it is the politics of the day that are the driving force behind the over the top punitive action. Censorship, yup. I think that is the crux of it, no pun intended. But more than that, this allows politicians to look strong and garner the support of the Orthodox Church and its faithful. Seriously, lesser punishments could be given. But no, not in this case because it went viral.

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Jack Kerras

Annnnnd this is why we have separation of church and state here.

I mean, I realize that no atheist can be elected to office at this time, that’s basically not a thing, but even so we’re not -really- allowed to make religion-based rules. ‘Blasphemy laws’ are one of the worst ideas there is.

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Schmidt.Capela

… I was under the impression many places in the US have laws that, under the guise of protecting “religious freedom”, are basically meant to allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Not just that, but most of the discussion about contraception and abortion is framed on religious grounds. And there are other small signals, such as court oaths to speak the truth being proffered while putting a hand over the bible.

The US is still too religious a country to have a proper separation of church and state. There is a formal separation, like in most other countries, but religious doctrine still dictates too much of what happens in politics.

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Estranged

Try on Saudi Arabia for size.

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Schmidt.Capela

Never said the US was among the worst when it comes to separation between religion and state, only that it can’t be seen to have achieved true separation yet.

BTW, to put things in perspective: in Saudi Arabia — the most important US ally in the Middle East — what that blogger did might potentially be punishable by death instead, since Saudi Arabia has the death penalty for the crime of blasphemy.

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Leiloni

Religious freedom was one of the things this country was founded upon and it was so important to our founders that it’s in the First Amendment to the Constitution, along with our freedom of speech. It sounds like you’re not from around here, but it includes the freedom to practice your religion – any religion.

So no it’s not “many places in the US”, it’s the entire country, and it’s not a law allowing people to discriminate, it’s a law practicing religious people from being discriminated against. That type of discrimination is why many people came to this country.

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m talking about the laws that exist in some places of the US allowing business owners to simply refuse service to people for religious reasons — which usually results in people with certain sexual orientations being discriminated in the name of “religious freedom”. Or, in other words, laws that use religion as a mere excuse to discriminate people.

Guaranteeing religious freedom is very different from allowing discrimination in the name of religion

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Leiloni

I’m not aware of any laws that do that. I have only heard some stories that made it to court that were on very grey areas that could potentially both inflict on the person’s right to practice their religion – things like asking Catholic hospitals to pay for and offer contraception and things like that, or bakers to bake cakes for a gay wedding. If you look at the other side of it, sure the people who are being refused are hurt, but what about the religious folks who are being asked to go against what they believe in? That argument goes both ways.

Personally I feel that since we do have religious and other freedoms here both parties have elsewhere they can go for their needs, so shouldn’t we be grateful for that? I’d much rather people be allowed to practice their beliefs than have them be thrown in jail or worse for it. That’s what scares me more if you look at what goes on in other countries. Be careful what you ask for.

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Schmidt.Capela

things like asking Catholic hospitals to pay for and offer contraception and things like that,

Interestingly, since the start of the current administration the US is again applying a ban on international funding to any health provider that even discusses the possibility of abortion, even if no US funds are used for that; it’s appropriately nicknamed the “global gag rule.” The US government is basically using its importance in order to impose the religious view of a part of its population and ruling class onto aid groups around the world.

Personally I feel that since we do have religious and other freedoms here both parties have elsewhere they can go for their needs, so shouldn’t we be grateful for that?

Nope, because allowing that kind of rule comes dangerously close to reinstating segregation.

Now, I’m all for business being able to limit the kinds of service they provide and to specify dress and behavior codes to be followed while inside their premises; but at the same time I don’t think the business should be allowed to refuse service to a customer that behaves appropriately while in the premises and orders something the business regularly provides, regardless of that customer’s religion, race, sexual orientation, whatever.

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McGuffn

So if someone refused to serve a christian or a jew you’d be okay with that?

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Robert Mann

There’s a difference between somebody discriminating against you, and the government locking you up for your beliefs. A huge difference.

Frankly, the problem here is that people buy into the ‘lesser of two evils’ myth. We could easily decide to elect an outside party without the baggage of either side, reform things, and put in a rights based system (not to mention removing a lot of corrupt practices.)

Religion… well, there’s two types of religion. The people who believe in the rules of how to treat others (mostly good, although in some cases not) and those who believe in trying to make everyone conform to their vision (bad, just bad.) The second type is, sadly, the more common. Has been forever, but for those people religion is often a tool or excuse (see things like the crusades, for example, where the real goal was land and not religion.)

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m not saying that the US doesn’t have religious freedom, just that the separation between church and state isn’t as robust as some believe. Religious freedom, while essential, isn’t enough for the separation between church and state to exist.

BTW: the only thing I disagree about what you said is that those aren’t two kinds of religion, but two kinds of religious people. Among the followers of just about every religion you will find both incredibly caring and understanding people and bigots of the worst kind.

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Robert Mann

:(

Seriously, go outside not to bother people… but this is ridiculous.

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Alfredo Garcia

This was too good to pass up…

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Jack Pipsam

I am so glad Australia doesn’t really have anything in a way of any real blasphemy laws or at least some state ones which are there are like never used, there’s anti-discrimination laws (often in contention), but from my understanding it’s only ever focused on racism and the such, never religion, which is a good thing as relgious-criticism is helping bring so many sex abuse victims some light of recent years, which may of been impossible if we still took blasphemy seriously. I am of the opinion that blasphemy laws have no place in modern societies.

Russia just seems to be an increasingly worse place to live in.

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Estranged

A hate crime is a hate crime, isn’t limited to just certain groups.