Athens, November 14, 2019
Despite hopes of reintroducing the anti-blasphemy law that was abolished by the leftist SYRIZA government half a year ago, Greek officials scrapped the plans on Tuesday as debate between the right and left wings heats up, reports the Keep Talking Greece.
Following the announcement of the law’s reintroduction on Monday by Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras on Monday, a public outcry arose and a wave of criticism and ridicule swept through Greek social media, causing the government to reconsider its decision.
Minister Tsiaras announced the change of plans on Tuesday, saying, “I am very concerned. I am not hiding that there is a great deal of concern after the noise that has been caused, and it is certainly an issue that I see with great care.”
SYRIZA MP Spiros Lappas said on Monday that he believed that the government’s intention was a despicable decision that “ridicules the penal code and ridicules our country, a democratic country.”
Tsiaras had explained that the measure was intended to protect religious minorities, as protests outside migrant camps rage, but that did not stop the government’s liberal opposition from lashing out.
“This was not about some kind of a return to theocracy,” Tsiaras said, reports the New York Times. “But since the issue has created such a debate, we did not want it to monopolize the issue of criminal justice reform.”
The Church had backed the reintroduction of the law. Following Tuesday’s news, Archbishop Irenaios of Crete issued a statement expressing his disappointment:
The Holy Archdiocese of Crete was informed with satisfaction that the crimes of malicious blasphemy and religious insult, which had been unjustifiably recently abolished, would be reintroduced in the Penal Code under review.
However, we noted with great regret and surprise that this socially beneficial institutional restoration was aborted due to reactions from various bodies and persons.
I feel the need, with feelings of love and truth, to address every competent but good-willed person, regardless of religion or belief, to demand that the above criminal provisions should be reintroduced, which will contribute to the safeguarding and protection of religious peace, reconciliation, and social cohesion.
Since there has been misinformation about the purpose of these provisions, we would like to reiterate that they do not seek to protect God and the Divine, since they obviously do not need judicial protection, nor do they concern the Orthodox Church, but protect every religion. In this way, these provisions are intended to deter religious fundamentalism and intolerance as well as to promote social peace and cohesion.
A sober and true approach the content of these provisions, far from being biased, will demonstrate their general social necessity and respect for the beliefs and values of not only every Orthodox Christian but also of every person of any religion. We expect that these provisions will be reinstated and that no contrary views will prevail, no matter how much we respected them.