Vladimir Putin has become a bona fide hero to American Religious Right activists, who see him as a conservative Christian counterweight to President Obama and his support for LGBT equality. Anti-gay activists, for instance, rallied around the Russian leader after the Kremlin approved a ban on speech dealing with “homosexual propaganda” to minors.
Evangelist Franklin Graham hailed Putin as a hero for taking “a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda” even as “America’s own morality has fallen so far on this issue”; Bryan Fischer called Putin a “lion of Christianity” and called upon U.S. lawmakers to adopt similar speech prohibitions; Matt Barber marveled that Putin was able to “out-Christian our once-Christian nation”; Sam Rohrer called Putin “the moral leader of the world”; Scott Lively lavished praise on Putin for “championing traditional marriage and Christian values”; and Rush Limbaugh applauded Putin for stopping “a full-frontal assault on what has always been considered normalcy.”
Officials with the World Congress of Families have lauded Putin as a savior of the entire world. The group organized a meeting for conservative activists at the Kremlin, which also played host to Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, who traveled to Russia to defend the country’s anti-LGBT crackdown in face of a Western “attempts to silence those of us who stand for the truth of marriage.”
Much of Putin’s anti-LGBT stance is part of a broader campaign to discredit the European Union, antagonizing nationalists to rise up against the EU and its support of progressive values like LGBT rights, and empower the Russian Orthodox Church.
U.S. Religious Right activists have prioritized their absolute contempt for the LGBT community above solidarity with Protestants in Russia, who have come under attack by the state and its allies in the Orthodox Church, which views evangelicals as heretics. Protestants in the occupied area of eastern Ukraine have faced violent attacks from Putin-backed forces.
Seeing that American conservatives are more than happy to ignore Putin’s campaign against Protestantism since he is, after all, the defender of traditional marriage against gay rights, it is more than likely that they will look the other way now that he is “potentially allowing — or at the very least turning a blind eye to — polygamy among Russia’s estimated 16 million Muslims.”
Julia Ioffe explained in Foreign Policy last week that the Russian government allowed for a friend of Chechnya’s leader to take a second wife in a case that received widespread attention in the country.
As Ioffe writes, “Christian warrior Vladimir Putin” has allowed for the Chechen government to enforce Islamic religious law within its boundaries. Putin’s decision to allow Chechnya to become “a small Islamic state within the borders of the Russian Federation” has paved the way for the legalization of polygamy.
Ioffe points to a case where a teenage girl was married to a 57-year-old police chief who was already married at the time in an arrangement that had all the appearances of a forced marriage. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who, like Putin, has a notorious human rights record, made sure that the wedding took place and even appeared at the reception.
One of polygamy’s noted defenders ended up being the country’s foremost supporter of the “homosexual propaganda” law: Yelena Mizulina. Ioffe writes:
[W]hen a lone member of the parliament proposed a law criminalizing polygamy, the initiative was duly shot down by Yelena Mizulina, the parliamentarian who was among the most vocal supporters of Russia’s anti-gay laws and other “traditional values” initiatives. Criminalizing polygamy, Mizulina said, was “absurd.” The reason for polygamy, she argued was that “there are not enough men, the kind with whom women would want to start a family and have children.” Last week, Mizulina was promoted to the upper chamber of parliament.
Mizulina authored the ban on “homosexual propaganda” and pushed through a law “banning the adoption of Russian orphans by gay couples, unmarried couples and single people in countries where same-sex marriage is legal.”
Putin’s “ombudsman for children’s rights — who was behind Russia’s ban on American adoptions,” Ioffe adds, justified the wedding by claiming that “in the North Caucasus, puberty hits earlier, so 16 was a great age for marrying. ‘There are places where women shrivel up by 27,’ he said.”
The Religious Right’s support for Putin, an authoritarian leader who has infringed on basic liberties and the democratic process, undermined the freedom of religion, particularly for Protestants, and allowed for the creation of a Sharia law enclave where polygamy is legal, once again proves that for a certain segment of American conservatives, everything comes down to opposing homosexuality.