Authors: Mariam Gavtadze, Eka Chitanava, Anzor Khatiashvili, Mariam Jikia, Shota Tutberidze, Gvantsa Lomaia
Project director: Mariam Gavtadze
Translators: Natia Nadiradze, Tamar Kvaratskhelia
Design: Tornike Lortkipanidze
The present report prepared by Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) provides an assessment of the situation of the freedom of religion or belief in Georgia and the respective state policy for the period from 2010 to 2019. The report also includes recommendations for key stakeholders.
The report discusses the problem of separation of state and religion, crimes motivated by religious intolerance, and their investigation, including the State’s response to cases of violation of the rights of Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses and legislative initiatives restricting freedom of religion or belief. The report also examines the national legal framework in respect of freedom of religion or belief, referencing important judgments of the Constitutional Court in relation to the Tax Code and Law on State Property, which has created unequal conditions for religious organizations; state funding for religious organizations and privileges granted to the Orthodox Church; the issue of religious bias and discrimination in public schools; issues relating to the property of religious communities including the restitution of property confiscated by Soviet authorities and obstacles faced by religious organizations in their attempts to obtain construction permits for new houses of worship; problems related to the mandate of the State Agency for Religious Issues and the State’s interference into the autonomy of religious minority organizations.
The majority of problems relating to the freedom of religion or belief in Georgia are structural. Analyzing state policy suggests the principle of the separation of state and religion as enshrined in the Georgian Constitution is often breached with financial, legal and social privileges being granted to the Patriarchate of Georgian Orthodox Church (hereafter, referred to as Orthodox Church and Patriarchate) and discriminatory treatment towards other religious communities. Furthermore, the State tends to interfere with the autonomy of religious organizations. In 2017, state authorities attempted to curb the freedom of religion within the framework of constitutional reform by introducing vague and unforeseeable criteria such as “national security”. In addition to being unclear, these criteria fail to meet international standards. The policy and practice pursued by the State Agency for Religious Issues seek to differentiate religious organizations and reinforce the State’s control over the latter rather than ensuring the protection of freedom of religion and equal rights to all religious communities.