Report by TDI: Freedom of Religion or Belief in Georgia
On May 6, 2020, Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) released the report Freedom of Religion or Belief in Georgia (2010-2019).
The Report provides an assessment of the situation of the freedom of religion or belief in Georgia for the period from 2010 to 2019 and includes recommendations for key stakeholders. Among other topics, the report overviews:
- The problem of separation of state and religion;
- The mandate and role of the State Agency for Religious Issues;
- State funding for religious organizations and privileges granted to the Orthodox Church;
- Legislative initiatives restricting freedom of religion or belief and discriminatory legislation;
- Important judgments of the Constitutional Court;
- Crimes motivated by religious intolerance and their investigation;
- Issues relating to the property of religious communities including the restitution of property and building new houses of worship;
- The issue of religious bias and discrimination in public schools.
The majority of problems relating to the freedom of religion or belief in Georgia are structural. Analyzing state policy suggests the principle of the separation of state and religion as enshrined in the Georgian Constitution is often breached with financial, legal and social privileges being granted to the Patriarchate of Georgian Orthodox Church and discriminatory treatment towards other religious communities. Furthermore, the State tends to interfere with the autonomy of religious organizations. In 2017, state authorities attempted to curb the freedom of religion within the framework of constitutional reform by introducing vague and unforeseeable criteria such as “national security”. In addition to being unclear, these criteria fail to meet international standards. The policy and practice pursued by the State Agency for Religious Issues seek to differentiate religious organizations and reinforce the State’s control over the latter rather than ensuring the protection of freedom of religion and equal rights to all religious communities.
In 2019, discussions on drafting a new law on religion and religious organizations made headlines with the Human Rights and Civic Integration Parliamentary Committee, the State Agency for Religious Issues and some religious organizations invoking special “regulations” while in fact, there was no need to impose additional regulations to protect freedom of religion or belief nor should the State define such concepts as “religion” and “religious organizations”. Taking into consideration the Georgian context as well as the history of the relationship between the State and religious organizations, there is a high risk that the introduction of such legislation would likely cause a hierarchy of religions with their differentiation based on various criteria.
While collecting and processing empirical materials for the report, TDI applied a combination of various research instruments including desk research and analysis of Georgian legislation, state documents, reports produced by international and local organizations as well as the Public Defender of Georgia; public information retrieved from local and central authorities; outcomes of TDI’s strategic litigation and advocacy, as well as court decisions and recorded interviews with representatives from religious organizations.
The state policy and practice in relation to the freedom of religion or belief are assessed vis-à-vis constitutional and international standards for human rights protection.
English version of the Report: http://tdi.ge/sites/default/files/tdi-report-freedom_of_religion_in_georgia_2010-2019.pdf
Georgian version of the Report: http://tdi.ge/sites/default/files/tdi-angarishi-religiis_tavisupleba_sakartveloshi_2010-2019.pdf
Online presentation of the report and the discussion available in Georgian: https://bit.ly/2SFytpS