Putin discovers that secularism doesn’t apply to Christianity

Vladimir Putin called on Russians to strengthen a new national identity based on conservative and traditional values such as the Orthodox church on Thursday, warning that the west was facing a moral crisis.

“Sovereignty, independence, the integrity of Russia – those are red lines that no one is allowed to cross,” the Russian president warned. Mr Putin said Russia should avoid the example of European countries that were “going away from their roots”, by legalising gay marriage and excessive “political correctness”.

“A policy is being conducted of putting on the same level multi-child families and single-sex partnerships, belief in God and belief in Satan. The excesses of political correctness are leading to the point where people are talking seriously about registering parties whose goal is legalising the propaganda of paedophilia,” Mr Putin claimed.

“People in many European countries are ashamed, and are afraid of talking about their religious convictions. [Religious] holidays are being taken away or called something else, shamefully hiding the essence of the holiday,” the Russian president added.

Financial Times, 20 September 2013

See also “Russia will develop as democratic state, defend Christian values – Putin”, Voice of Russia, 19 September 2013

Yes, this is the same Vladimir Putin who, less than a year ago, stated that “we should always proceed from the fact that we live in a secular state”. But that was in the context of a dispute over the right of Muslim pupils to wear the headscarf at school. Putin took the view that allowing this practice could violate the principle of separation of religion and state.

But this is par for the course when it comes to state “secularism” in countries with majority Christian populations.

The same French government that banned the hijab from schools in 2004, in the name of secularism and the separation of church and state, instructed public buildings to fly their flags at half mast as a mark of respect when Pope John Paul II died the following year. The “secular” Charter of Values that the government is currently seeking to impose in Quebec would ban civil servants from wearing hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes, but would allow prominent Christian symbols to be displayed in public institutions on the grounds that they are part of Quebec’s cultural heritage.

Clearly, this sort of “secularism” isn’t about the separation of church and state, or even the exclusion of religion from the public sphere – it’s about targeting and suppressing the rights of minority ethno-religious communities.