Russian Orthodox Church calls ECHR decision on Pussy Riot members’ appeal blow to legal protection of religious freedom

December 5, 2018. The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church says that the European Court of Human Rights’ refusal to reconsider its Pussy Riot ruling restricts religious freedom in Europe.

“It is regrettable that the court rejected Russia’s appeal and refused to refer the case to the Grand Chamber. The court evaded a serious and substantive discussion of its ruling of July 17 concerning this case. The decision is final now. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it undermines the legal protection of religious freedom in Europe,” Hegumen Philip (Ryabykh), a representative of the Russian Church at the Council of Europe, told Interfax.

Essentially, the ruling, an appeal against which the court refused to accept, can be interpreted as support for holding non-religious events in places of worship without the consent of the religious communities that own them, the priest said.

“Instead of searching for a balance, the European Court has defended the freedom of a minor group of people at the expense of the freedom of millions of other people,” he said.

Had the case been reconsidered, both Russian and Western rights organizations, which are also concerned by the violation of the rights of believers in European countries, would have joined the discussion, the priest said.

“In recent years, a wave of invasions of the premises of Christian communities has rolled through all of Europe. Deplorable events took place in Catholic churches of France and Germany. Christian sacred objects and images were vandalized in Spain and in Lithuania. They attempted to outlaw the carrying of the baptismal cross in Britain, and the Strasbourg court demanded that Italy ban crucifixes at schools,” he said.