Museum curators face prison over Jesus art

After a lengthy trial, three years of jail time is what two curators are facing after the Russian Orthodox Church went bananas over a 2007 art show where Christ was depicted in many unorthodox ways. The irony of this is that the show itself was meant as a protest against censorship of the arts.

Artists and rights activists have appealed to the Kremlin to put a stop to the prosecution of Yury Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, warning of a return to Soviet-era cultural censorship with the rules now dictated by a conservative and politically powerful church.

Even Russia’s culture minister says the two men did nothing to break the law against inciting religious hatred.

But the prosecutors refuse to back down and have demanded a three-year prison sentence when the judge makes her ruling on July 12.

Samodurov sounds like someone who’s worth supporting. He’d taken flak at the museum before for another religiously inspired collection displayed in 2003; it was entitled “Caution: Religion” and cost him approx $3600 in fines after some fine upstanding alter boys vandalized the art. I admire him for not backing down. Other people might have put the kibosh on supporting another religious criticism show, given what happened to after the last one.

members of Narodny Sobor, or People’s Assembly, threatened him [Yerofeyev] in court and told him to remember the fate of “Caution: Religion!” curator Anna Alchuk. After she moved to Berlin, her body was found floating in the Spree River in 2008. German police said Alchuk most likely killed herself, but her husband blamed her death on persecution she faced as a result of the exhibit.

The curators have argued that this latest collection isn’t meant as blasphemy against religion, but to raise awareness of art censorship as every piece in the show had been banned from a museum at some point – usually because of the mocking of religious iconography.

The Russian Orthodox Church continues to stand behind the case against the two curators. “They should be punished,” Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a church spokesman, said this week.

Samodurov said the church was much more involved in this case than it was when charges were brought against him over the 2003 exhibit.

Rights activists see the trial as a sign of the expanding influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The church has become an instrument of censorship like it was during czarist times,” said Gleb Yakunin, 76, a priest and Soviet-era dissident who has broken with the church. “It wants to control culture.”

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, 82, a veteran rights activist who chairs the Moscow Helsinki Group, said she had little hope the defendants would be cleared, given the power of the church.

“I am very afraid for them,” she said. “The church is now younger, more energetic.”

And still powerful in the hearts and minds of believers everywhere — and in political arenas they shouldn’t have influence over in the first place. Open letters have been written by rights activists, popular artists, and anyone else who thinks this outcome is beyond outrageous. Some letters have also been sent directly to the President.

It also must be noted that a major art gallery in Moscow is completely willing to put pieces from this show on display again should these men be convicted. Censorship is the real crime here. I don’t care how large the Church is in Russia. What it is right now is a bully intimidating the entire country. That should not be tolerated or excused by anyone, whether you’re an art lover or just like those painted naked ladies. They should never have domination and veto power over the expression of ideas and feelings be they those of their own followers’ or anybody else in the country or the world.

If they succeed with an art show, then maybe that will give them the incentive to push harder on book publishers, filmmakers, and anyone else who’s critical of what they do and what they’ve become. What they do is shameful; what they’ve become is tyrannical.

About 1minionsopinion

Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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4 Responses to Museum curators face prison over Jesus art

  1. Maranda says:

    Hey,
    I read your blog all the time and I think you’re amazing. Can I ask you a random question? You believe in global warming yeah? I do (how could you not?) and i was just facebook harassed by a religous fundie telling me I’m wrong. Anyhow- just wanted to get your opinion.

  2. 1minionsopinion says:

    Sheesh, praise feels good. Thanks for commenting, too. What was the argument exactly?

    I’ll put the global warming thoughts into a post. It might be a long comment otherwise.

  3. Maranda says:

    Some background… it was 101 degrees where i live today and on facebook I wrote “101 degrees today.. no such thing as global warming hm?…” And he commented “Nope, it’s just called summer. Liberals are retarded” I replied ” You’re right, it’s summer that’s melting the ice caps. Scientists are so retarded too.” And I deleted the prick from my friends.
    Then he sent me these messages:

    Tyler 07 July at 16:12 Report
    Wow – how sad to be deleted just because of one comment. I didn;t relaize you had such low tolerance. Anyway, here is an answer to your polar cap comment. It really is a myth and any slight research will prove it so. You can even search google for the emails from the scientists that were pressured into saying things that aren’t true. The emails were found and released this past November.
    The earth is variable. The western Arctic may be getting somewhat warmer, due to unrelated cyclic events in the Pacific Ocean, but the Eastern Arctic and Greenland are getting colder. The small Palmer Peninsula of Antarctica is getting warmer, while the main Antarctic continent is actually cooling. Ice thicknesses are increasing both on Greenland and in Antarctica.

    Sea level monitoring in the Pacific (Tuvalu) and Indian Oceans (Maldives) has shown no sign of any sea level rise.

    I feel sorry for you and how misguided you are. I will be praying that you can one day be saved and know the truth.

    God bless!

    Maranda 07 July at 17:14
    Global warming is obvious. So obvious that me having to explain it makes me laugh that someone would be so oblivious. But for the hell of it, lets say you’re right, and all the evangelicals are right and global warming is not happening. Why all the hostility towards simply taking better care of the earth? Reducing our waste and using cleaner energy is a GOOD thing. This religious mindset that “Well, jesus is comin’ back and will burn the world so who cares” is a really scary way of thought.

    The stuff you’re reading is false and circulated by evangelicals who feel their religious beliefs are being threatened by the facts.

    I deleted you because I can handle debates and different points of view, but I’m not so great at handling ignorance. Plus, you commented and I’m like “Who the hell is he?” I don’t even know you.

    Tyler 07 July at 18:13 Report
    OK…gotcha…you just can’t handle differing opinions and you surely can’t intelligently debate a differing opinion because you build too much assumption into your knee jerk reaction. Sad really that you are so bent on being different that you can’t hear truths. Whatever. You and anyone who actually believes in global warming is just a gulible product of the media. Still praying for u.

    Maranda Russell 07 July at 18:56
    People like you are the reason no one will ever take your faith seriously. And for the record, 85% of americans believe global warming is happening, and I’m the one bent on being different? You’re the minority, you aren’t hearing the truth. But wait, was that also circulated by people who were “pressured” to believe it? lol.
    good day.

    Anyway- thanks for taking the time to read all this. I thought of you because I read your blog all the time and I thought you’d be able to (if u ever feel like it) write out a much better argument then I ever could.

    Thanks 🙂

  4. 1minionsopinion says:

    I never touched on the religious aspects of this debate in my post this morning. I think I’ll do a post about that tomorrow as a part two. As you can see by what I did write already, I agree with him as far as “the earth is a variable” argument goes. He’s almost right about Tuvalu, too, but for the wrong reason. I’d have to fact check what he’s said about the ice thicknesses, though. I know nothing about that.

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