Source: OC Media
July 4, 2018
Privileging the Georgian Orthodox Church over other religious groups in tax and state property legislation has been ruled discriminatory and unconstitutional by Georgia’s Constitutional Court. On Tuesday, the court issued rulings on two cases, both filed by religious minority groups against unequal treatment by the state.
Eight religious groups asked the court to review regulations in the tax code that exempted the Georgian Orthodox Church from paying VAT when building, renovating, and painting churches. They argued the policy was discriminatory, as they applied to no other religious groups in Georgia, which they said contradicted their constitutional right to equality.
The Georgian Parliament — the defendant in the case — argued that even though all religious groups are equal, special privileges for the Georgian Orthodox Church are legitimised by the need to protect the country’s cultural heritage and by Article 9 of the Georgian Constitution, which declares the Georgian Orthodox Church to have a ‘special role’ in the country.
The court ruled that the unequal treatment of religious groups was discriminatory and had not been sufficiently justified by the government’s stated goals. They said to resolve the issue, the tax benefits should either be abolished entirely or be provided equally to all religious groups.
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