Amid Growing Public Pressure, Greek Govt Withdraws Proposal To Criminalize Blasphemy
The Greek government has decided not to go ahead with its plan to criminalize blasphemy, following a heated debate between the running conservative government and its left-wing opposition. The proposal was removed from the draft legislation which was being debated in the parliament.
Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras had announced the development on Tuesday, October 12, along with many other amendments that were proposed to the Penal Code in July earlier this year. Greek daily Kathimerini quoted him as telling a local news channel: “It will be withdrawn. Considering there is a general understanding that is going against it, I think we have to take it seriously.”
The proposal to criminalize blasphemy was made by the ruling government, which had stated blasphemy would be a crime punishable by up to two years in prison. This amendment was backed by the Greek Orthodox Church which stated that such a law would help to preserve the sanctity of the faith.
Archbishop Ieronymos of the church defended the proposal, saying: “It aims at protecting, in particularly troubled times, the religious sentiment of the faithful and the overriding interest of social peace and social cohesion.”
The proposal had garnered a lot of negative responses from the public as well as the left-wing opposition. “Only fundamentalist countries in Asia and the Middle East have laws like that. God does not need protection from a public prosecutor,” lead representative of the left-wing party, Sypros Lappas, said.
“This was not about some kind of a return to theocracy, but since the issue has created such a debate, we did not want to monopolize the issue of the criminal justice reform,” Tsiaras said.
In the amendments proposed in the justice system, it foresees stricter penalties for migrant trafficking, rape, and child abuse, as well as the tripling of prison terms for those who are found guilty for trafficking migrants undocumented.