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Opposition Parties Condemn Religious Groups' Legal Status Law
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 6 Jul.'11 / 16:34

Echoing the Georgian Orthodox Church’s position, most of the opposition parties slammed hasty approval of legislative amendment allowing religious minority groups to be registered as legal entities of public law.

Many opposition parties have called on President Saakashvili to use his constitutional right and veto the amendment, while others called for declaring the Orthodox Christianity “official religion” of Georgia.

Our Georgia-Free Democrats (OGFD), opposition party led by Irakli Alasania, said the President should veto this discussion taken “behind the Patriarchate’s back.” OGFD also said that the issue required broad public discussion before being approved.

The New Rights Party, as well as some others also called for vetoing the amendment. The New Rights Party said in a statement that by hastily approving the proposal the authorities put themselves in confrontation with the Georgian Orthodox Church, “which, to say the least, does not contribute to creating atmosphere of civil accord.”

“This unjustified hasty approval [of the legislative amendment] will not help to solve the problem; on the contrary, it may cause irreparable damage such a fragile and important issue like peaceful co-existence of people of different confessions,” the New Rights Party said.

Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), a leading party in a small parliamentary minority group, said hasty approval of such legislative amendment, without taking into consideration position of the Georgian Orthodox Church, “is a very dangerous step for the country.”

CDM, however, said it would be naive to demand from President Saakashvili to veto the amendment.

“We have no illusion that this decision was made without President Saakashvili’s blessing, so we are not asking him to veto this law; we are not so naive to ask him to do that,” MP Levan Vepkhvadze of CDM said on July 6.

MP Vepkhvadze said that CDM would instead push for upgrading the status of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which already enjoys with a special status through the 2002 concordat with the state, by declaring it “an official religion of Georgia.” He said that CDM was ready to launch collecting citizens’ signature for initiating relevant legal procedures required for constitutional amendment.

The opposition National Forum party said that hasty approval of the legislative amendment was yet another attempt by the authorities “to establish the policy of ignorance of the Patriarchate, because the authorities do not see role and place of the Georgian Orthodox Church under the ‘dream model of Singapore’.”
The Labor Party said that “an assembly of godless lawmakers approved one more anti-Orthodox and anti-state law with total ignorance of the Georgian Orthodox Church’s opinion.” It also said that the move aimed at “inciting ethnic and religious strife and to discredit the Georgian Orthodox Church.”

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