Georgian parliament to consider bill on insulting religious sensibilities, Georgian Church supports it

The Georgian parliament will soon consider a bill that would introduce criminal penalties for insulting religious sensibilities. A representative of the Georgian Orthodox Church has stated that the patriarchate supports the bill. “I … am ready to join these discussions,” said parliamentary Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze. “The committee will make a definite decision, after which this question will be examined in a plenary format,” Kobakhidze told reporters, according to RIA-Novosti. The parliamentary Committee for the protection of human rights decided to establish an ad hoc working group to study and amend the bill in detail.

In late 2013 the Georgian Interior Ministry proposed a draft law offering adding the “insult of religious sensibilities” clause to the code of administrative offenses, but at the time the proposal was dropped. In January, 2015 the Georgian Orthodox Church called on the authorities to provide for the protection of the rights of believers against the “insult of religious sensibilities.”

The matter was discussed in parliament in 2016, but did not pass into law at that time. The author of the current legislative package is a member of the opposition faction “Alliance of Patriots” Emzar Kvitsiani. In particular, the amendments provide for a fine or imprisonment for one year for publicly insulting religious sacred objects, organizations, clergy, and believers. It is also proposed to punish any inscriptions or damage to religious buildings and churches.

According to Georgian television station Rustavi 2, of all religious denominations in Georgia, only the Georgian Orthodox Church supports the bill. Kvitsiani told reporters that he initiated the bill because “people have recently become to defame the Georgian Church and traditional religions, calling it freedom of speech and the expression of opinions.”

Speaking of the Church’s support of the bill, Patriarchal Secretary Archpriest Mikael Botkoveli stated, “We will support the bill, which will punish the insulting of religious sensibilities. Presumably, we will meet with the authors of the idea, and we will talk about the details. We have the general idea that many European countries have introduced the use of such a law in practice.”