Wiretapping, patriarchal privilege and homophobia - US State Dep. report on Georgian Orthodox Church
State Department’s report on the Georgian Orthodox Church
The US State Department has published its annual Religious Freedom Report, which stated that current legislation provides unique privileges to the Georgian Orthodox Church. The report also addressed covert wiretapping and the 5 July violence.
The State Department noted, based on its own sources, that the Russian Orthodox Church had secretly supported the autocephalous ambitions of the separatist churches.
According to the report, the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Churches have recognized the affiliation of the churches in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the Georgian Church, although representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church have said that the de facto government of South Ossetia was pressuring the churches to unite with the Russian Orthodox Church.
According to the report, information published on the Internet and covered by the media shows that surveillance of religious leaders and wiretapping of their conversations is widespread.
“The government denied the authenticity of the [secret wiretapping] documents when some religious leaders, journalists and others authenticated them and claimed that the surveillance had a devastating effect on religious freedom in the country, confirming their suspicions that the State Security Service was monitoring religious groups”, the report says.
The DoS report also discussed government policy during the pandemic, when the Georgian authorities introduced partial lifting of Covid restrictions and benefits for the Orthodox Church amid religious holidays during the nation-wide lockdown.
“Parliament has not yet implemented the court’s decision to terminate the exclusive tax and property benefits granted to the Georgian Orthodox Church, or to extend these benefits to other religious groups”, the report says.
The document emphasizes that along with far-right activists, priests of the Orthodox Church were also involved in the homophobic violence on July 5, 2021.
According to the State Department, Armenian Apostolic, Evangelical, Lutheran, Catholic and Muslim groups in Georgia continue to face difficulties in getting religious property recognized by the state. According to the report, Georgian Muslims still suffer from the lack of transparency in government decisions to build mosques.