Russian trial centers on speech issues


In Russia, three women are on trial for performing a protest song in a church. The whole case is a good reminder why the First Amendment exists in the United States and why the separation of church and state should be protected.

The women are members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot and best I can tell, they’re facing a government trial for blasphemy; an article in the Guardian says that the official charge is “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility.”

In February, members of the group went up to the altar in a Russian Orthodox cathedral and performed what media are calling a “punk prayer.” They were protesting Russian President Vladmir Putin, who at the time was running for reelection (he was reelected in March). A BBC report, published today, says that the women were reacting to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s public backing of Putin’s reelection bid. The women are facing several years of jail time — the trial and arguments wrapped up today — for what was essentially political commentary.

Yesterday, The New Republic published a narrative that shows just how absurd and confusing the whole trial has become. This paragraph was particularly enlightening:

“When the judge asked the girls how they plead, Alyokhina, a small, mousy girl with a poof of dirty blonde hair, said she wouldn’t plead at all as she didn’t understand what the indictment even meant. When this devolved into a shouting match with the judge—the first of many—Alyokhina demanded, ‘Why doesn’t the court take my words into account?’ She was ordered to sit down.”