Georgia parliament looks to protect religious sensibilities of believers

The Georgian Parliament Committee for Human Rights adopted today a bill that, if approved, will make the insulting of religious feelings administratively punishable, reports Georgia Online.

Under this bill, such offenders will be fined 300 gel ($110) for the first offense and 600 gel ($220) for repeat offenses. Moreover, the desecration of religious shrines and sacred objects will bring a fine of 500 gel ($185) for the first offense and 1000 gel ($370) thereafter.

Initially the bill proposed administratively fining “public expression of hatred towards sacred religious objects, religious organizations, clergy or believers and/or the publication or display of materials aimed at insulting the sensibilities of believers,” although it was revised to simply read “insulting religious feelings,” following parliamentary discussion.

Chairman of the human rights committee Eka Beselia noted that they are seeking a balance between freedom of expression and protection of religious feelings. The initiator of the bill, Soso Jachvliani added that the bill is actually quite mild in comparison with those in some EU states which consider such offenses criminal, rather than administrative.

A similar bill was rejected in 2013, after which Patriarch Ilia called on authorities to protect the religious rights and feelings of believers in January 2015.