This paper analyzes Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer, the performance of which in a Moscow cathedral resulted in harsh penalties for members of this protest group. He argues that the content and performance of the song can be considered both religious – feminist religious speech contributions on matters of religious orthodoxy – and political – anti-establishment speech, with the establishment consisting of the Putin regime, the Russian Orthodox Church and especially the liaison between the latter – speech. Accordingly, Pussy Riot’s activist art falls squarely within the category of protected speech under international free speech standards. Russia’s conviction of the members of the punk group over allegations of ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’ shows, according to the author, how religious speech offences can be abused by states to stifle speech that is deemed undesirable by secular and / or ecclesiastical authorities.

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Erasmus School of Law

Temperman, J. (2017). “‘Mother of God, Drive Putin Away’: On Blasphemy and Activist Art in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights”. In Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression: Comparative, Theoretical and Historical Reflections after the Charlie Hebdo Massacre. Retrieved from