Religious freedom in Georgia

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Freedom of religion in Georgia is provided for by the country's constitution, and the government generally respects this right in practice.

The government generally do not interfere with traditional religious groups; however, there is growing suspicion of non-traditional religious groups.

Contents

Legal and policy framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. The Constitution recognizes the special role of the Georgian Orthodox Church in the country's history, but also stipulates the independence of the Church from the State.

There are no laws regarding the registration of religious organizations. Religious groups that perform Humanitarian service may be registered as charitable organizations, although religious and other organizations may perform Humanitarian service without registration.

During the Soviet era, the Georgian Orthodox Church largely was suppressed, as were many other religious institutions; many churches were destroyed or turned into museums, concert halls, and other secular establishments. As a result of new policies regarding religion implemented by the Soviet Government in the late 1980s, the present Patriarch began reconsecrating churches formerly closed throughout the country. The Church remains very active in the restoration of these religious facilities and lobbies the Government for the return of properties that were held by the Church before the Bolshevik Revolution. (Church authorities have claimed that 20 to 30% of the land at one time belonged to the Church.)

On March 30, 2001, Parliament amended the Constitution to allow for ultimate adoption of a concordat between the Church and the State, supported by the Church, which would define relations between the two. While a final concordat draft had not been completed by mid-2001, earlier versions covered several controversial topics, including transfer to the Church of ownership of church treasures expropriated during the Soviet period and currently held in state museums and repositories; government compensation to the Church for moral and material damage inflicted by the Soviets; and government assistance in establishing after-school Orthodox religious courses in educational institutions and Orthodox chaplaincies in the military and in prisons. The prospect of such a concordat has raised concerns among nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that believe that it would discriminate against religious minorities. However, parliamentary leaders have indicated that prior to adoption, the final concordat draft will be sent to the Council of Europe, European Parliament, and European Union for informal expert analysis, to ensure that it accords with European norms and the country's international legal obligations. the Georgian government being under pressure from Orthodox Church refused to sign an other agreement between the Vatican and the Georgian government over envisaging guarantees of religious freedom and legal rights for Catholics in Georgia. In September 2003, former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze made a last minute decision not to sign this agreement with the Vatican after a protest rally took place in Tbilisi, provoked from and backed by the Georgian Orthodox Church. As a result, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, then Secretary for the Holy See's Relations with Foreign States, who arrived in Tbilisi to sign this agreement, had to leave Georgia empty-handed.

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