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Statement of the Council of Religions under the auspices of the Public Defender regarding Legislative Initiative on Insulting Religious Feelings

We would like to make a statement regarding legislative initiatives of the Government of Georgia - the draft law submitted to the Parliament of Georgia “On amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences of Georgia”, providing introduction of new article 1691 to the Code.

 

The above article qualifies the public expression of hatred towards sacred objects, religious organizations, clergymen or worshipers aimed at insulting the religious feelings as an administrative offence and sets up administrative liability on this basis.

 

Despite of the fact that worldwide conflict between religion and freedom of expression has repeatedly been the subject of discussion and the members of the Council of Religions have done statements on this issue before, we would like once again to state that the content of this provision contradicts the Georgian Constitution, fundamental human rights and limits freedom of expression.

 

We, the member religious organizations of the Council of Religions, are very well aware that expression of intolerance publicly or in media is very challenging issue.

 

We have been the target of verbal attacks, hatred, insult, humiliation and discriminatory treatment for over the years. From this point of view, the trends, that are observed in different media, the rhetoric of politicians and public figures, are deeply disturbing. However, we, based on international experience, agree that, in this context, the way of establishing the legal restrictions against the hate speech shall not really lead us to the desired result.

 

Instead, we must apply all measures in order to begin addressing this critical issue through objective informing of the public, appropriate and vigorous educational activity, mentoring and, most importantly, human, religious appeal to the people full of hatred. Religious way to overcome hatred may be based precisely on this broad educational approach, rather than restriction on a particular form of freedom of expression.

 

The members of the Council of Religions are also deeply convinced that establishing such a regulation of freedom of expression, we may create the danger to democratic development, pluralism in society, broad discussions on the most important topics and even expression of a critical position in relation to religious associations.

 

In particular, we must not create obstacles to the process of debate and dialogue on religious topics, but, on the contrary, we must give it an opportunity in order to make our society more informed and overcome fear, negative stereotypes and taboos, associated with a particular religious topic, which is the main source of incitement to hatred.

 

Given all of this, we address the Parliament of Georgia to prevent adoption of the above draft law and not to call the future of democratic and pluralistic development of our country and society into question.

 

The statement is open for signing for religious associations. At this stage, it is signed by the following members of the Council of Religions under the auspices of the Public Defender:


  1. Caucasus Apostolic Administration of Latin Rite Catholics
  2. Spiritual Council of Yezidis
  3. Georgian Muslims Union
  4. Armenian Catholic Church
  5. Evangelical-Lutheran Church
  6. Evangelical-Baptist Church
  7. Church of Evangelical Faith
  8. Seventh-day Christian- Adventist Church
  9. Evangelical-Protestant Church of Georgia
  10. Holy Trinity Protestant Church
  11. Evangelical Church of Georgia
  12. Evangelical Church “Word of Life”
  13. Evangelical-Baptist Church “Madli”
  14. International Organization The Salvation Army
  15. Society for Krishna Consciousness
  16. Evangelical Church Firm Foundation
  17. Society of Friends – Quakers
  18. Swedenborgian Community in Georgia
  19. Full Evangelical Church People of God
  20. Tbilisi Church of Scientology

 

 

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