If you play Pokémon Go in a church in Russia, you could end up in the slammer.
Local YouTube star Ruslan Sokolovsky has been accused of offending religious sensibilities by playing the game in a church in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg, an act that could result in five years’ jail time.
Authorities in the country had already issued a warning to its Go-playing citizens that trying to catch ’em all inside places of religious worship could lead to arrest.
Apparently keen to test out the claim, Sokolovsky decided to enter Yekaterinburg church last month to play the augmented-reality smartphone game, recording his risky escapade for his 300,000 YouTube fans.
Before venturing inside, he tells viewers the ban is “complete nonsense,” adding, “Who could get offended if you’re just walking around with your smartphone in a church?” Well, he soon found out.
After posting his adventure on YouTube in August, the 22-year-old vlogger received a visit from the law on Saturday. A subsequent search of his home turned up “evidence of incitement to hatred and attacks on the liberty of faith,” according to news agency AFP.
Sokolovsky will now be held in detention for up to two months, though could face years in prison if convicted.
It sounds serious for the Russian YouTuber. In August, Valery Gorelykh, a police spokesperson for the region, suggested Sokolovsky should be sent to prison for “at least five years,” explaining that an example should be made of him to discourage other Pokémon Go players from doing the same thing, the Moscow Times reported.
It’s certainly interesting to see how different religious bodies have responded to having PokéStops and Gyms turn up inside their places of worship. In Japan, monks at a temple with a designated Pokémon Go Gym actively encourage visitors to play the game, even going so far as to offer free mobile charging facilities marked with a little Pokéball sign. And several churches in the U.K. have been inviting visiting players to stay on for the service.
However, like the Russian church, not all believers have embraced Pokémon Go. An Italian bishop, for example, recently called for the “diabolical” game to be banned, apparently describing it as “a totalitarian system close to Nazism.” He even threatened to sue the game’s creator, Niantic.
A Christian Post report, meanwhile, suggested U.S. churches are split on whether to embrace the game.
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