Monday, February 24, 2014
I have an op ed piece in today's Philadelphia Inquirer on violations of religious freedom and other human rights in Vladimir Putin's Russia.
My analysis is based largely on what I've learned about Putin's actions while I've been serving on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. These thoughts are, however, my own and do not reflect the views or positions of the Commission.
"In 2012, after Putin's return to the presidency, he oversaw a further campaign against freedom. He supported and signed laws raising fines against protesters one hundred fold; fining or jailing foreign-funded NGO leaders who refused to stigmatize themselves as "foreign agents"; and broadening the definition of high treason, potentially making participation in international organizations punishable by up to 20 years in jail."
"In July, Putin signed a blasphemy law imposing fines and imprisonment for "disrespect" or "insult" of religious beliefs. He also approved legislation barring public advocacy of "alternative lifestyles." Yes, other countries are creating a hostile climate for freedom of expression of traditional moral views about sexuality and marriage - and this deserves condemnation - but two wrongs don't make a right. Societies must protect every individual's right (and the right of every religious or advocacy group) peacefully to express their beliefs about sex and marriage and other issues."
"Behind these restrictions is a premise - that respect for human rights threatens Russia's cultural unity or national security. But when the government dishonors fundamental rights, there can be no unity or security, only more chaos and division, and, eventually, violence and terror."
"When it comes to national security, Putin understands the need to fight not just terrorists, but also their ideology. But the Russian strongman needs to learn that the way to defeat bad ideas is with good ones in a public square that admits the peaceful expression of competing ideas. If Russia is to prevail, it must protect basic civil liberties - from freedom of religion or belief to expression, association, and assembly. It must create and maintain a free marketplace of ideas."
The full op ed piece is available here: