A Moscow court on Friday (Aug. 17) found three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after a guerrilla performance in Moscow's main cathedral in February. They were sentenced to two years in a penal colony.

The band performed a “punk prayer” against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I.

The case has divided Russia and the Orthodox Church and drawn worldwide protests on behalf of the band and free speech. Outside the courtroom, protesters clashed with police and  well-known chess champion Garry Kasparov was arrested during the protests.

The charges against Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich had carried up to seven years in prison, and the prosecutor had demanded at least three years for the women, who range in age from 22 to 30.

Judge Maria Syrova said that she did not accept the defendants' explanation that Christ the Savior Cathedral is not a church but a commercial enterprise because of businesses that operate there.

During the trial, which began last month, the defendants explained that they were opposed to Kirill's support of Putin, who returned to the Kremlin after winning the March 4 presidential elections in the face of protests claiming voting irregularities.

Kirill has been silent on the case for several months after leading a prayer service in April to pray for deliverance from persecution of the church.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, has said the church is ready to forgive members of Pussy Riot if they repent.

“If someone insults me personally, then of course I will forgive them,” Chaplin told the RIA Novosti news agency last month. “But if someone insults my faith or my God, I wait until they change their position and admit that they acted wrongly.”

In the performance, the musicians walked into the cathedral, donned brightly colored hoods and began to gesticulate and dance in front of the altar. Their actions were filmed as a video and set to music with the lyrics “O Birthgiver of God, Get Rid of Putin” and an expletive as a refrain.

The video went viral, shocking many Russians and infuriating the Kremlin and the Orthodox hierarchy, but also setting off a debate in the church about the role of forgiveness and mercy in Orthodoxy.

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  1. Bravo for putting the punks in jail. Free speech doesnt include “flash mobs” in someone’s church, give me a break. If this happened in my church, cathedral or mosque, I’d want the courts to send them to the quarry to smash some rocks too.

    “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away” Lyrics (translated from Russian)

    Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
    Рut Putin away, put Putin away

    Black robe, golden epaulettes
    All parishioners crawl to bow
    The phantom of liberty is in heaven
    Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains

    The head of the KGB, their chief saint,
    Leads protesters to prison under escort
    In order not to offend His Holiness
    Women must give birth and love

    Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!
    Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!

    Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist
    Become a feminist, become a feminist

    The Church’s praise of rotten dictators
    The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
    A teacher-preacher will meet you at school
    Go to class – bring him money!

    Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
    Bitch, better believe in God instead
    The belt of the Virgin can’t replace mass-meetings
    Mary, Mother of God, is with us in protest!

    Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
    Рut Putin away, put Putin away

  2. Ok upon further reading, I would qualify my statements by saying that at the core I can understand the protest but the means and platform of using the church sanctuary as pulpit is worthy of judicial punishment. But a true punk wouldn’t mind the punishment because it gives you a greater platform, which has happened. Wedding church and state is worthy of protest, even outlandish protest but I know that I’d this was a sjinhead group or Islamic group the public support would be less than it is. I think there’s a general anti-fervor that loves anything feminist, anti-religious and against the powers. I hope true debate can emerge, not Maddonna sensationalism piggy backing for press time.

  3. I can think of another guy who got thrown up on charges of disturbing the peace, stirring up protest against the religious establishment, and going into the temple and acting like a hooligan by turning over tables and driving people out with a whip.

    You might have heard of him, his name was Jesus.

  4. “Wedding church and state is worthy of protest, even outlandish protest but I know that I’d this was a sjinhead group or Islamic group the public support would be less than it is. I think there’s a general anti-fervor that loves anything feminist, anti-religious and against the powers.”

    It amazes me that my fellow people who fall both into “thoughtful” and “religious” never seem to ask why this is.

  5. “never” ???

    Come on Sam, are you telling me you’ve “never” read or heard any thoughtful and religious person engage these matters?

    I bet you’d be protesting the protest if some conservative group was doing “flash mobs” in GLBT places of worship or community centers.

    Jesus gets hijacked for everyone’s cause…He’s the ultimate NPC used by every DM on the block. The friend of everyone and the enemy of no one and so turned into an irrelevant piece of cultural propaganda. The face of every protest and the reason for every action. Ugh.

    Pussy Riot may just be the latest Western imperialist backed uprising. The pawns of our uber-democratization of the once free world. Poor puppets in a gig to usurp and destabilize yet more regions of the world where we have economic and political interests in seeing such things happen.

    A loud punkish scream into the microphone against those evil moralists seeking to bring in those creepy gay hating fundamentalist religionists into the once proud atheistic free state.

    Or it could be Woodstock blooming in panties and facemask, clenched fists, upward fingers and feisty manifestos or it’s not.

  6. “Come on Sam, are you telling me you’ve “never” read or heard any thoughtful and religious person engage these matters?”

    I might not have phrased the question clearly enough. What I was asking was why I never hear religiously faithful people, even ones of great thought and articulation, ask why the world continues to be angry at the positions and actions of the institutional Western church. I think it’s a critical question. I think we’re living in an age where factual information is easier to access than ever before, and it’s starting to make people, particularly younger ones, ask a lot of the right questions about society.

    “I bet you’d be protesting the protest if some conservative group was doing “flash mobs” in GLBT places of worship or community centers.”

    Not really. I have so far been entirely unimpressed with the positions and arguments of right-leaning Christians who gather in public assembly. But if they come up with something important to say, and out of a sense of civil disobedience do it in a church, I’d be willing to listen. It’s not like they’d be hurting anyone and when is a church a place of community discourse? Particularly if that church is supporting an autocratic regime that stole an election.

    “Jesus gets hijacked for everyone’s cause…He’s the ultimate NPC used by every DM on the block. The friend of everyone and the enemy of no one and so turned into an irrelevant piece of cultural propaganda. The face of every protest and the reason for every action. Ugh.”

    Just sayin’.

    “Pussy Riot may just be the latest Western imperialist backed uprising. The pawns of our uber-democratization of the once free world… Or it could be Woodstock blooming in panties and facemask, clenched fists, upward fingers and feisty manifestos or it’s not.”

    Yeah I think they’re mad because an autocratic ruler stole their election and, lacking legitimization through Soviet military power, is attempting to gather legitimization by sucking up to the conservative religious establishment. Old story. I mean, you DO know that the whole charge about religious hatred was about the group saying that men and women are equal and should enjoy equal rights? http://bit.ly/NY8SxR

  7. On a related note: http://bit.ly/NYaIiq

    So now “insulting Christians” is a crime that the state should punish and dictators come out the heroes. My, my, my. Our little faith is just dying to make itself irrelevant and hated as fast as it can, isn’t it? I’m so glad I live in a country with the First Amendment.

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