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Russia's little freedom problem rears its ugly head

"Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me."

Matthew 25:40

It appears that some people in Russia, who call themselves "Orthodox Christians", have forgotten who said what in the Gospels. Or at least, they've forgotten what it meant...

More than 70 people have been arrested in Moscow after activists tried to hold the city's first gay rights rally, despite a ban on the event.

About 50 gay rights supporters were held, as well as 20 people from religious and nationalist groups opposed to the march.

On Friday, a court upheld a ban on the march imposed by the city authorities who argued it could trigger violence.

Saturday marks 13 years since Russia's decriminalisation of homosexuality.

A number of foreign activists are in Moscow for a forum on gay rights.

About 1,000 riot police were deployed close to Red Square in the heart of the city to stop the rally from taking place and prevent clashes with its opponents.

They moved in when a group of activists tried to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in a symbolic protest to equate the struggle for gay rights with the struggle against fascism in World War II.

No, it's not the gay rights activists who've forgotten Jesus' famous admonition. They remembered. Read on...

Meanwhile demonstrators representing nationalist and Orthodox Christian groups chanted anti-gay slogans and shouted abuse.

Eyewitnesses said several foreign gay rights activists were beaten by protesters.

"What happened today unfortunately is representative of the non-respect for human rights in Russia. You can't express your point of view, and you are not protected from extremists," said French activist Sebastien Maria.

Nationalist groups expressed anger at the nature of the action at the tomb.

"We are Russians. We are Orthodox. These soldiers died so we could live like Russians, not so these people could come here and tell us what to do," Andrey, 25, told Reuters news agency.

I'm puzzled. What kind of Christian orthodoxy is it that so blatantly and selectively disregards Matthew 25:40? That's the word of the Lord there, people. How can anyone ignore it and still call himself a Christian--with no sense of irony whatsoever? Jesus never said a word against homosexuality. However, he was very clear on intolerance and lack of compassion, and put himself unambiguously in the shoes of anyone--ANYONE--who suffered persecution. And according to the Absolutist view of the Sermon on the Mount, the protesters are, ironically, living up to Orthodox belief much more than their persecutors.

In any event, these "Orthodox" Russians have confirmed just how right the activists were. There is, indeed, a fight against fascism still to be fought in Russia. And the conflation of religion with repressive official policy is a fascist tendency, whether they like to be reminded of it or not.

It isn't very Christian of them, either.