Activists demand religion respects gay rights

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A secular pressure group is calling on the European Union to stop religious leaders inciting violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, after a weekend of violence between religious and gay groups in Moscow.

Sophie in ‘t Veld, an honorary associate of the UK National Secular Society, has written to Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, requesting that religious leaders attending a meeting with him today should condemn the violence.

Over 120 people including a German MP were arrested in Moscow last weekend after campaigners attempted to hold Russia’s first gay rights rally.

Gay activists were met by religious and nationalist protesters chanting anti gay slogans and 1000 riot police aiming to stop demonstrations in the Red Square.

Ms in ‘t Veld, a Liberal MEP and chairwoman of the European Parliament’s working group on Separation of Religion and Politics, attended the rally with gay campaigners such as Outrage’s Peter Tatchell and Oscar Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland. She said: “The violence and hatred against a handful of gay activists was shocking enough in itself, but to see Orthodox priests leading and cheering on the hooligans is a downright disgrace.

“The EU is a community of values, and has a special responsibility in promoting human rights. It cannot be that Barroso meets with church leaders on the topic of “fundamental rights and mutual respect”, without saying something about the hatred and violence against gay people, often spurred on by religious leaders.”

She suggested religious leaders should speak out and publicly condemn the role of the Orthodox priests in the violence of last weekend and called for an investigation by the Orthodox Church.

The Mayor of Moscow banned the gay parade claiming it would protect gays and lesbians from potential violent protests

A statement from the Mayor’s office said: “This march could provoke a wave of protests which could lead to mass breaches of public order and disturbances, therefore the application for the march has not been successful.”

Today’s European Commission meeting will discuss respect for religion in reaction to the controversy over cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad in Denmark.