The Duma, Russia’s parliament, is expected to pass a law that would punish anyone caught openly offending religious people or religion, RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday. Individuals found guilty of being “disrespectful of society” and offensive to “the feelings of believers,” could be fined up to the equivalent of $15,510, along with “compulsory and correctional labor” and a jail term of up to one year.

Higher fines and longer jail sentences could be imposed on those who “prevent the operation of religious organizations or religious rites.” If passed, the law will come into effect in July 2013.

Opponents of the bill are calling it the “Pussy Riot law,” named for the all-women rock band that went inside Moscow's Russian Orthodox Cathedral, ran to the front and began singing a protest song against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his close ties with the church's leader, Patriarch Kirill. The band members were jailed on blasphemy charges and sentenced to two years in a penal colony.

On Tuesday, prior to the third reading of the bill and the vote, protests against the bill took place outside the Duma and resulted in clashes with police, RIA Novosti reports.  The demonstrators, about 300 in number, were simultaneously protesting the religion bill as well as a bill “restricting the promotion of homosexuality.” Both bills are strongly backed by the same activists that support the Russian Orthodox Church.


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