Statement on the Constitutional Claim of Religious Organizations

We would like to respond to the statement of the Patriarchate of Georgia regarding the constitutional claim of 8 religious organizations according to which equal tax status for all religious organizations is requested.

Namely, on October 16th, 2015 the Patriarchate responded to the submission of our constitutional claim  to the Constitutional Court of Georgia. According to the Patriarchate’s statement: “It is surprising that some religious minority organizations made a step which aims not to get the similar tax benefits, but to abolish tax exemptions for our Church.”

We consider that regrettably, such interpretation created absolutely false impression about our constitutional claim. Therefore, in order to clear away the ambiguity on this issue, we find it important to once again clarify the concept and aim of the claim.  

Pursuant to article 14 of the supreme law of the State - the Constitution of Georgia, “Every person is born free and is equal under the law notwithstanding their […] religion…” Precisely this principle stands as a basis for our request that Georgian tax legislation should treat all religious organizations equally without any discrimination.

Consequently, the applicants request to recognize unconstitutional specific legislative norms (related to Value Added Tax, Profit Tax and Property Tax). In case the court satisfies the claim, all registered religious organizations will be entitled to enjoy these tax benefits similarly to the Georgian Orthodox Church.

We would like to highlight, that our claim does not seek to recognize unconstitutional the Constitutional Agreement signed between the State and the Orthodox Church or any particular norm of this document. We consider that the Agreement regulates the relationship between two parties and its content does not limit other religious organizations. Therefore, if our constitutional claim is upheld, it does not threaten Georgian Orthodox Church with abolishing its tax benefits, but it will give the possibility to all religious organizations to enjoy the same tax exemptions.

We hope, the Constitutional Court of Georgia fully satisfies our claim and at the same time, the concept of the claim will not become the subject of ambiguous interpretation.

 

Claimant Religious Organizations:

  • Caucasus Apostolic Administration of Latin Rite Catholics
  • Evangelical-Baptist Church of Georgia
  • Georgian Muslims Union
  • Pentecostal Church of Georgia
  • Trans-Caucasian Union of Seventh-Day Adventist Church
  • Word of Life Church of Georgia
  • Holy Trinity Church
  • Church of Christ

 

Organizations  Representing the Claimant at the Constitutional Court:

Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)

Constitutional Law Clinic of Free University of Tbilisi

 

Oct/1520