Russian lawmakers back prison terms for religious offense

MOSCOW - Russian legislators have given initial approval to a law that would make offenses against religion punishable by up to five years in prison after the Pussy Riot protest in Moscow's main cathedral outraged many in the mainly Orthodox country.
Three women from the punk band were jailed for hooliganism after their protest over Kremlin ties to the church, but the new law would make such stunts illegal by deeming they caused offense to religious feelings, ceremonies, sites or artifacts.
Critics of President Vladimir Putin, who has vocal support from the Russian Orthodox Church and has said the protest shows the state must protect believers, say the bill blurs the line between church and state and curbs freedom of expression.