Most observers have viewed the prosecution of Russian punk band Pussy Riot for performing an anti-Putin song in an Orthodox cathedral as a sign of growing intolerance of political dissent in Russia. But Ed Koch is "delighted" that "religious hatred" is being punished.
From Koch's Aug. 20 Newsmax column:
Some approve of the verbal attack on Putin. Others support the denunciation of the Russian Orthodox Church leadership and the church disruption because of the church leadership support of Putin. All cited characterize the issue as one of free speech.
I do not.
I would assume that many of the band’s supporters would take a different position, and rightly so, if here in the U.S. a black church were invaded and three men or women engaged in comparable conduct insulting holy places within the church and the pastor.
When I was mayor in 1989 and the AIDS activist group Act Up — unjustifiably angry with John Cardinal O'Connor — invaded St. Patrick's Cathedral and interrupted mass, throwing communion wafers — which for Catholics are the actual Body of Christ — to the floor.
Some were arrested.
As far as I can recall, no one was punished. But I think the decision of the Russian court to punish a hate crime was just and something to be applauded rather than condemned and ridiculed.
One can argue concerning the degree of punishment, whether fines rather than jail time should have been imposed, but that is a function of the Russian penalty procedures.
I also believe it is not in the interest of the U.S. to support the actions of the band. At a time when the Iranian nuclear threat grows by the day and we are fighting Islamic extremists around the world, we should be seeking to enlist President Putin to join the West in our effort to prevent the Islamist fanatics from achieving their goal of destroying Western civilization, not making him the enemy and this band the victim.
I do not believe the issue is properly one of freedom of expression.
The right to free expression is not unlimited and does not mean one can say anything anywhere and at anytime.
Further, Russia and most countries do not have embedded in their law the constitutional protection of the First Amendment that we do.
I for one am delighted they now punish religious hatred. Aren't you?