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NGOs criticize Georgian PM for his definition of secularism

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, July 27
Eight Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have released a statement in response to Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s comments, according to which secularism in Georgia is incompatible with its classical understanding.

The NGOs explain that the principle of secularism implies the institutional division of the state and religion, and the neutral attitude of the state to religious groups.

The statement reads that secularism in a democratic and legal state is a necessary precondition for peaceful coexistence of religious neutrality, tolerance and multi-confessional society.

The NGOs say that this spirit is shared by the Constitution of Georgia, according to which the state and church are independent of each other.

“This principle is the most important part of the Constitution of Georgia,” the statement reads.

The organizations recalled that in 2002, the Patriarchate of Georgia and the state signed a constitutional agreement. This document regulates the relationship between the two subjects and, as well as the "historic role" of the Church recognized by the Constitution of Georgia, does not exclude the protection of the secularity principle.

Furthermore, the statement reads that the first Constitution of Georgia (1921) states that the State and the Church were absolutely separate and independent from each other and no religion within the state had any advantages. According to the same constitution, it was strictly forbidden to provide any kind of religion from the state or local self-government funds.

“We would like to emphasize that the clear choice of citizens of Georgia - democratic development and integration into the Euro-Atlantic space - is impossible without the protection of the principle of separating religion from the state,” the NGOs claim.

The organizations reiterate that constitutional secularism has only one understanding and content that implies separation of secular and theological authorities from each other.

“Accordingly, the statement made by the Prime Minister has put Georgia’s historic and legal values, as well as legal order of the country under question,” the statement reads.

PM Kvirikashvili made the statement about secularism at the official opening of a hotel in patriarch’s hometown, the village of Sno in the Kazbegi region, last week.

While delivering his speech, the PM underlined that the state and Orthodox Church are inseparable from each other.

“Our statehood and our Church are as closely interwoven as St. Nino's cross bound together with her hair. This is why, although today the separation of state and church is officially observed, secularism, in its literal meaning, does not belong in Georgia,” Kvirikashvili stated.