MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Orthodox Church is opposed to Gay Pride parades as propaganda of homosexuality harmful to society, a church official said Tuesday.
Commenting on reports Monday that the gay community in Moscow is planning to set up an organizing committee for a Gay Pride parade in May, despite permission being denied last year, Vsevolod Chaplin said: "Society has rejected homosexual propaganda, which triggers resentment and protest."
Chaplin, who is deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchy's department for external relations, said the gay minority in Russia were free to live as they liked, but their influence on society, especially children, was a matter that demanded the interference of society and the authorities.
"Authorities must listen more attentively to public opinion, rather than those expressed by some foreign groups or a handful of vociferous propagandists of homosexuality," Chaplin said.
About 200 gay rights activists held an unsanctioned march in the Russian capital last May, which resulted in violent clashes with members of a number of political parties and religious and radical movements, and the arrest of about 120 people from both sides, most of whom were later released.
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov then branded the parades as "Satanic" acts and vowed to deter any attempts by homosexuals to march through the capital this year.
An organizer of the event said Tuesday that homosexuals planned a three-day festival this year, which would round off with a march in support of tolerance for people with different sexual orientations.
"The march is planned for Sunday, May 27, the day marking 14 years since criminal prosecution for homosexuality was abolished," Nikolai Alexeyev said.
He said organizers would not drop the idea even if the city authorities banned it again, and threatened to appeal the ban with the European Court of Human Rights.
Russian gay rights activists have already filed a libel suit against Luzhkov with the European court.
Luzhkov, who has run Moscow since 1992, was also subjected to criticism over the ban from European mayors at a meeting in London in February. But pressure from his colleagues did not convince him to alter his position.
"We did not let the parade take place then, and we are not going to allow it in the future," Luzhkov said earlier.
The conservative Union of Orthodox Citizens said it would stage protests if the parade was permitted.
Kirill Frolov, the organization's press secretary, called international pressure on Luzhkov and the arrest of a Protestant pastor in Sweden several years ago for calling homosexual relations sinful "aggression" against those upholding traditional values.
"We are witnessing the sphere of human rights breaking away from ... the church, and freedom being treated separately from moral responsibility and human rights - with such an interpretation of freedom - which is nurturing a new totalitarianism," Frolov said.
Representatives of all the main denominations in Russia - Islam, Judaism and Buddhism - joined the chorus of condemnation Tuesday.
"If the parade takes place, Muslims could lose trust in our government," said Damir Gizatulin, deputy head of the Council of Muftis of Russia.
"We believe a parade devoted to any, even traditional, sexual relations is unacceptable and indecent," said Borukh Gorin, a senior member of the Federation of Jewish Communities, who is also warning that the march could have a destructive influence on children and youth.