Sunday, April 10, 2005

Me a scandal? You a scandal!

The Greek Orthodox Church has been at the centre of a scandal and still hasn't recovered from its identity crisis a few years back...

...So: One way to keep eyes off your scandal is to point your finger at another scandal.

Hence the April 13 court case, which will address the case of Austrian artist Gerhard Haderer who has been convicted in abstentia of blasphemy [for a cute little book called The Life of Jesus] in Greece and given a six-month jail sentence in January. His appeal is on Wednesday.

OXY publications are also on the Church's black list. The book was banned soon after it was published in February 2005.

"Imagine you publish a book in Europe where you are protected by the laws of your own country, and that without your knowledge, it gets published in another, less free country." [Talk Left]

Greece is "less free" a country than other European countries?


1. Greece has a constitution. The constitution provides for religious freedom (Article 13); freedom of expression in the press (Article 14); and freedom of expression in the arts (Article 16).

2. Greece has blasphemy laws.

3. So does the artist's home country, Austria. Blasphemy laws "still exist in several countries, such as in Austria (Articles 188, 189 of the criminal code), Finland (Section 10 of chapter 17 of the penal code), Germany (Article 166 of the criminal code), Italy, The Netherlands (Article 147 of the criminal code), Spain (Article 525 of the criminal code) and United Kingdom. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees a relatively unlimited right of free speech, although some US states still have blasphemy laws on the books." From

4. In Greece, a judge (I'm getting this from my reading of Thanasis Tegopoulos's editorial in today's Eleftherotypia) has the power to pronounce a law unconstitutional and choose not to rule on it.

5. The Greek courts have not done this, though the Haderer judgement is clearly unconstitutional. (?) (I'm no politics grad, so experts welcome to comment and correct).

6. There is also the historical background:
There's been a lot of talk in Greece lately about the separation of the Church and State. The two have been buddies since the inauguration of the modern Greek state, so it's a difficult relationship to sever.

It's not just the fanatics who say that "Greece means Orthodoxy". The formation of the modern Greek state is historically linked to the Church. The Greek Church was active in the formation of the Greek State. So it is difficult to compare Greece to the experience of other European states formed in opposition to the Church.

7. And we come back to the Greek Church and its scandalous present.

Was my initial reaction right? Is the Church just trying to get people's attention away from their own scandals to another scandal?

Poor Haderer. Poor scapegoat.


Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Great post Kathryn! Do you know when the blasphemy laws came into effect, and if they have been invoked frequently or rarely? I'm actually amazed that the blasphemy law is in existence.

I do get a sense that the relationship between the Orthodox Church and the State is a special one (I once did a class paper on this) and that has started to unravel somewhat at present. Interestingly in Romania, the opposite is true where after decades of Communist rule, the Orthodox Church wants to assert itself more in State affairs.

12:52 pm  
Blogger kathryn said...

Yeah, I'm rather amazed about the blasphemy laws too, though I'm more amazed that England still has them.

Good question about when they came into effect. I'll have to find out. I'll try and come up with an answer to that soon.

Interesting point about Romania.

Thanks for stopping by! How are ya?


6:24 am  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Fine, still wrestling with my research questions!

9:40 am  

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