On July 5, 2011, a legislative amendment of the legal status of Georgian religious minorities in the Civil Code of Georgia was passed by the Parliament in Tbilisi. Its adoption triggered a heated public discussion on inter-religious issues.
“Interfaith,” Design by vaXzine
The legislative amendment passed by the Parliament on July 5, 2011, changes the legal status of Georgian religious minorities. It now allows them to be registered under a legal status of entities of public law. Until today, religious minorities could only register under a legal status of entities of private law, which did not make them be symbolically recognized as national religions.
Following the adoption of the amendment, a heated debate was triggered. Indeed, it noticeably prompted a quick reaction of the Orthodox clergy of Georgia which considers that the amendment has been passed ‘hastily’ and ‘without proper consultation of the Georgian Orthodox Church’. The Orthodox clergy therefore asked for more time to be allocated to public discussion. And the discussion has been going on ever since.
According to the constitution and the constitutional agreement with the state [concordat], the Georgian Orthodox Church actually enjoys a special legal status. With the adoption of the amendment, it feels that this special status is threatened.
However, also according to the Georgian law, every religious group is supposed to be equal before the law. And the special status of the Orthodox Church theoretically does not limit the freedom of faith of other religious groups, which is, in practice quite, different from the point of view of religious minority groups.
The choice of the religious minorities that should be entitled to be registered as entities of public law is one of the biggest issues for the Georgian Orthodox Church. It insists on the importance of the ‘historic ties to Georgia’ as it is mentioned in the law. Among numerous minority groups traditionally established in Georgia we can quote the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Baptist Church as well as the Muslim and Jewish communities or the Yezidi Kurds.
Another concern of the Georgian Orthodox Church is that this new legal status for religious minorities could pave the way for claiming the ownership of religious minorities over disputed churches. This issue is of specific importance to the Armenian Apostolic Church and Roman Catholic Church.
Sadly, after the adoption of the amendment, inter-religious and inter-ethnic hatred immediately started in parallel to the public discussion in Georgia. Hate speech was heard in the statements of various political and public figures.
To keep up with the debate:
And here is a list of articles posted earlier in the month:
July 11, 2011
Georgian Orthodox Church Softens Stance
October 27, 2009
U.S. Annual Report on Georgia Religious Freedom