Georgia considers ‘blasphemy law’ to ban religious insults

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Former Soviet Republic of Georgia considers framing blasphemy law to put an end to religious insults and demolition of religious symbols.

The law will impose a fine of of 100 lari (around £80) for “insults to religious feelings”, with the figure doubled for a repeat offence. Desecrating a religious symbol could result in a fine of 1,000 lari (£800), about the figure of the average monthly salary.

The supporters argue that the law will be for the protection of all religions but minorities and many church leaders have protested and called it an action dangerous for the minorities. Minorities fear that the law will only be used for the increasing the power of the Orthodox church.

“This law is not going to protect anyone; at least not the minorities, and will be a powerful tool against freedom of speech,” Rusudan Gotsiridze, a Baptist bishop said

The Georgian ombudsman’s office has also criticised the proposed law. “The current wording proposes the ‘insult of religious feelings’ as the sole criterion for limiting freedom of expression, which… subjects one individual to another’s will and places the believers in a privileged position,” said ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili.

The Georgian Orthodox Church is extremely powerful in the country and is associated with a pro-Russian and nationalist agenda. Its members have been associated with protests, sometimes violent, against Muslims and other religious minorities such as Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews.

According to the Tolerance and Diversity Institute, in September 2014 in Kobuleti in the Adjara region, local Orthodox Christians slaughtered a pig and nailed its head to the front door of a Muslim boarding school to protest its opening.