The leaders of all the major religions in Russia have written to the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights urging him not to support gay people’s right to march.

Moscow Pride has been banned for two years running, but organisers plan to go ahead with the event later this month.

In a letter to Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg, Buddhist, Muslim, Russian Orthodox and Jewish leaders referred to “so-called pride” events and “non-traditional sexual orientation.”

They argued that as the majority of Russians think lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people commit sins “damaging human dignity” they do not have the rights others do.

The signatories to the letter included the Head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha in Russia; the Chairman of the Council of Muftis in Russia, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and Berel Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia.

“We would like to draw your attention to the fact that an overwhelming majority in Russian society do not believe homosexuality to be a norm in sexual relations,” they wrote.

“The unity in this matter is based on deeply-rooted moral perceptions of the traditional religions in Russia: Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism.

“The faithful of these religions have been educated from times immemorial for the respect of traditional family, which is the union of man and woman.

“We believe this attitude to marriage to be the only right one, while its distortions expressed among other things in homosexuality to be a sin damaging human dignity.

“The commitments of the Russian Federation under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms give our government the opportunity to reserve for itself the right to limit human rights for the protection of morals.

“This Convention, just as other international agreements signed by the Russian Federation, does not and cannot determine the moral conceptions of our society.

“This is beyond the force of international law. We reject therefore the lawless attempt to export to Russia any amoral behaviour standards wrapped in legal form.

“Unlike some European states, Russia is not responsible for the physical extermination of homosexuals.

“Our religious communities have treated those who have fallen in this sin with patience, offering them help and support in overcoming their illness.

“This sinful passion however, essentially destructive for any person, has never been encouraged.

“Therefore, we have consistently urged to abandon the propaganda of sinful distortions of human nature, which have been believed to be such for millennia.

“The traditional religions in Russia believe that good relations between our state and other European countries are a guarantee of peace and well-being of Europe.

“Therefore we ask you not to support the planned action of sexual minorities which can create a spiritual and value-orientated divide between Russia and the Council of Europe.

“We do not want to see an opinion establishing itself in Russia that the Council of Europe is an organisation ready to support actions contrary to the religious beliefs of the Russian faithful and grossly trampling upon their conscience.”

Thomas Hammarberg was elected as the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights by the Parliamentary Assembly in 2005.

Last month he called for more protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Since I took up the office, I have been quite horrified by the extent of homophobia in a number of countries in Europe,” he said.

Metropolitan Kirill, who is head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, said in January that not viewing homosexuality as a sin will lead to a variety of other sexual perversions.

“Morality is either absolute or it does not exist. If you excuse homosexuality, why not excuse paedophilia?” he said.

The 47-member Council of Europe predates the European Union.

It promotes and protects democracy, educational and sporting co-operation and created
the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Hammarberg, who is Swedish, said last month that gay Pride marches should not be banned or obstructed by national or local authorities.

The Mayor of Moscow has described Pride as ‘Satanic’ and banned it in 2006 and 2007.

Organisers have taken him to the European Court of Human Rights over his actions, but their case has yet to come before the court.