Georgian parliament to discuss bill on ‘insulting religious feelings’
The parliament of Georgia will soon examine a bill which would make ‘insulting religious feelings’ – or certain forms of blasphemy – illegal and punishable via fine or imprisonment.
The proponent of the bill is Alliance of Patriots MP Emzar Kvitsiani, who is well known for his conservative views and anti-Western rhetoric. Kvitsiani says that Orthodoxy is under attack in Georgia, and that it must be defended by toughening legislation.
The bill was discussed today at a meeting by the Committee of Human Rights with the presence of spiritual leaders. The chair of the committee, Sofia Kiladze, stated that she has certain questions about the bill but that she finds it generally acceptable.
Kiladze further stated:
“As an Orthodox Christian, I am annoyed that in recent times, Orthodox values have been inadequately portrayed. This has become an annoyance for many people, and I share their anger … However, we are proud that over many centuries our country has been an example of tolerance, respect and love … One can find many such examples in the history of the country. Mutual insults are not acceptable when talking about religion. I support the idea of the bill and in some form regulations with the help of the law must be carried out.”
According to the bill, statements, the publication of materials and the public expression of positions made about religious organisations, spiritual leaders and believers with ‘the aim of offending religious feelings’ will be punishable by fine or imprisonment of up to one year. Moreover, the desecration of religious buildings or shrines will be punishable by up to two years imprisonment.
The Georgian parliament has already discussed such potential amendments to the existing legislation. In 2013, the Ministry of Internal Affairs appealed to the parliament with a similar bill, and in 2016, a representative of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Sopo Jachvliani, did the same.
The difference is that these bills only proposed administrative punishments for violations of the law.
In both cases, NGOs came out against the bill, as did the country’s ombudsman, saying that such regulations contradict the right to self expression, the principles of a fair state and threatens democratic development.
• A talk-show host on TV channel Rustavi-2, Giorgi Gabunia, was recently accused of ‘offending religious feelings’ by the Georgian patriarchate and members of the parliamentary majority. He was attacked for making a joke about Jesus Christ.
•A similar law was passed in Russia in 2013.