Two members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who in 2012 were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for staging a protest in a cathedral, were detained again in Sochi, Russia, today. The two were released after a few hours, during which they say that they were beaten by police .
While people across the world have held up the Pussy Riot prosecution as an example of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s human rights abuses, the group has had some strong detractors in the American right. Just as with Russia’s recent crackdown on LGBT people, the ordeal of Pussy Riot has divided the American conservative movement. While Texas senator Ted Cruz, a Tea Party hero, last month criticized the prosecution of the band (whose name he nevertheless wouldn’t say), some of his allies on the Religious Right have cheered Putin on.
Shortly after the sentencing of Pussy Riot’s members, Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America – also a board member of the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families – wrote a column arguing that the band was guilty of “religious bigotry” and should “accept responsibility for [their] actions.” At a World Congress of Families event earlier this month, Crouse repeated that she had “no problem whatsoever” with the Pussy Riot prosecution.
The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a close ally of the World Congress of Families that works to oppose gay rights and reproductive rights advances at the United Nations, has repeatedly defended the Pussy Riot prosecution on its blog, calling them a "small group of female hooligans" and comparing them to 1960s political "terrorists."
Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan also defended Putin’s actions against Pussy Riot, praising the Russian president for “trying to re-establish the Orthodox Church as the moral compass of the nation it had been for 1,000 years before Russia fell captive to the atheistic and pagan ideology of Marxism.”
The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer praised Putin’s supposed protection of “Christian values,” calling him a “lion of Christianity.”
As we discuss in our “Globalizing Homophobia” report, the anti-gay part of Putin’s agenda has caught the imagination of American social conservatives, who have rallied to support the Russian president’s defense of “Christian values.”
Putin’s targeting of Pussy Riot is closely linked to this crackdown on gay rights that has been enthusiastically embraced by American conservatives. Both are part of a broader campaign to stir up popular sentiment against minority rights: On the very same day that the Russian parliament passed its infamous “homosexual propaganda” ban, it also responded to the Pussy Riot controversy by imposing an anti-blasphemy law that imposes a three-year prison sentence for “offending religious sensibilities.”