Russia’s Orthodox Church announced today that it is opposed to the planned Moscow gay Pride parade, as it believes homosexuality is harmful to society.

Gay activists plan to hold the parade on the 14th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia.

Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchy’s department for external relations, told RIA: “Society has rejected homosexual propaganda, which triggers resentment and protest.”

He went on to criticise the gay community for influencing society, especially children.

He suggested that it was such an issue that the authorities should consider intervention.

Chaplin said: “Authorities must listen more attentively to public opinion, rather than those expressed by some foreign groups or a handful of vociferous propagandists of homosexuality.”

The conservative Union of Orthodox Citizens said it would stage protests if the parade was permitted.

Today representatives of Russian Muslims and Jews joined the calls for a ban on the parade.

Damir Gizatulin, deputy head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, told RIA: “If the parade takes place, Muslims could lose trust in our government.”

Borukh Gorin, a senior member of the Federation of Jewish Communities said: “We believe a parade devoted to any, even traditional, sexual relations is unacceptable and indecent.”

However, human rights activists are resisting this tide of homophobia.

Moscow Pride last year drew 200 people despite being banned, which resulted in violent clashes between the gay community and members of political and religious parties.

120 people were arrested, but most of them were released soon after.

The mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov branded last year’s parades “satanic,” and vowed to stop any gay Russians who might try to march through Moscow this year.

One of the organisers said that the gay community had been planning a three-day festival, which would finish with a march in support of greater tolerance.

Nicolas Alexeyev said: “The march is planned for Sunday, May 27, the day marking 14 years since criminal prosecution for homosexuality was abolished.”

He said that if the march is banned again, the organisers will appeal 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 been mayor of Moscow since 1992, was subjected to criticism over the ban from European mayors at a meeting in London in February.

But peer pressure has not persuaded him to cave to the demands of the gay community.

Alison Gil, the head of Human Rights Watch’s Russian office told Interfax: “The parade must be authorised. I see no reasons for banning it in Moscow.”

She said that the parade must go ahead, otherwise it would be a human rights abuse.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of Moscow’s world-renowned human rights organisation, The Helsinki Group said: “It is against the law to ban marches. The law forbids the authorities from banning marches. A different venue can be offered only after convincing arguments are provided.

“Russian law protects the rights of sexual minorities, but in fact sexual minorities are opposed not only by the authorities, but also by the public. Life is not easy for these people in this country, as their rights are abused.”