Police, Orthodox Church Look the Other Way After Mob Attacks at Georgian Gay Rights March

A group of priests led more than 20,000 people to attack participants in a gay rights march in Tbilisi, Georgia on Friday, but police refuse to take the incident seriously.

Gay rights rally under attack in Georgia

The New York Times reports that, in spite of the documented attack — which sent at least 14 people to the hospital after protesters punched them, threw rocks at them, and pulled people from cars — the Georgian police have made no arrests and are showing little signs of investigating further:

Instead, a bishop who helped to organize the mass turnout — ostensibly a counterprotest — said from the pulpit that while the violence was “regrettable” and those who committed it should be punished, the Georgian Orthodox Church was obligated to protest the gay rights rally and would “not allow anyone to humiliate us.”

“When there are so many people, it is difficult to speak only about Christianity and morals,” said the bishop, Iakob Iakobashvili, in his Sunday sermon in Tbilisi. “Many were not able to overcome their nature and saw enemies in the others, said bad words and punched them. I was told clergymen were among them. I am not able to either condemn or justify them. They are also humans.”

The orthodox church holds a great deal of sway in the Georgian nation, including openly supporting Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who may or may not pursue prosecutions after the attack. Georgian Orthodox patriarch Ilia II is another public figure who takes it upon himself to police the morality of the nation, even at the expense of LGBT citizens:

Ilia II is widely acknowledged to be the most popular figure in the country. He offered no sermon on Sunday, but on Friday, after the violence, he urged protesters to leave the streets and for both sides “to pray for one another.”

“We do not accept violence,” he said, according to Interfax. “But it’s also unacceptable to give propaganda” to homosexuality.

A day earlier, he had urged the Georgian government to ban the gay rights march, writing that the majority of Georgians saw gay activism as “an insult.”

Perhaps most disturbing is the Times‘ reporting on Georgian citizens who see little to no issue with the violence against the gay rights activists, clearly motivated by Orthodox teachings:

Outside of the Tbilisi church where Bishop Iakobashvili spoke Sunday, Elza Kurtanidze, 34, a former schoolteacher, said that she had spent the last days “hotly” debating if those who attacked the marchers should be punished.

“We have already gone too far by having gays and lesbians openly promoting their way of life,” she said. “This is unacceptable! By allowing things like this, we let Georgia turn from the road of its traditional destiny.”

“Arrests will be too much; it will help to further excite the situation in Georgia,” she added.

Also outside the church was Leila Dzneladze, 16, who said that while she opposed the violence, she believed that the “truth was on the side of the church.”

“No one should be punished for this,” she said. “This is for God to judge them, not us.”

It is completely unacceptable to simply let this brutality slide because it aligns with a group’s religious beliefs. Religious justifications for discrimination and intolerance are bad enough, but when religion unabashedly motivates physical attacks, the potential for it to devolve into something more severe is far too great. We should be more outraged about this.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • MD

    If those priests attacking people who are simply marching are also just human, why the fuck should anyone listen to them?

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Typical religious hypocrisy:

    “Their people are protesting for rights we don’t want to give them… let’s actively take things into our own vigilante hands and have a mob, including clergy, physically assault those people.

    Wow, our clergy and our mob physically assaulted people. The police, government, etc., should NOT take things into their own hands (i.e., impose the law), but instead let’s leave it all to God’s hands to sort this out.”

  • Kevin Sagui

    Oh really? Allowing this will “turn Georgia from the road of its traditional destiny?” Considering Georgia’s “traditional destiny” has generally sucked, might want to consider emulating those countries doing it better than you. A good first step would be not beating the fuck out of gay rights protesters.

  • Jeff

    What’s a “traditional destiny,” anyway? Tradition is about the past, and destiny is about the future.

    And for supposedly having divine, cosmic truth to back them up, these overgrown children sure aren’t shy about resorting to thuggery.

  • observer

    “‘This is for God to judge them, not us.’”

    For these people, it’s, “God will judge you.”

    For homosexuals, athiests, pro-choicers, etc., it’s, “GOD WILL JUDGE YOU, AND HE WILL CONDEMN YOU TO HELL WHERE YOU BELONG!!”

  • Gus Snarp

    Any time you say “We do not accept violence” and the next word out of your mouth is “but”, you’re really saying, “We accept violence under these conditions”, you’re just saying it dishonestly.

  • MD

    It’s more like”For homosexuals, we are going to beat the crap out of you because our god isn’t fast enough to do it himself.”

  • Spuddie

    But in case he doesn’t, you will defy the teachings of your religion and do it on his behalf. Because Jesus was all about letting people cast stones and giving judgment upon others.

  • Spuddie

    Are the clergy trying to remind people why there was such animosity against the church “back in the day”?

  • compl3x

    I’m not racist, but. I’m not sexist, but. I’m not homophobic, but.

    Everything after the “but” negates the first part of the sentence.

  • michael both

    All ex-USSR members (and Russia itself) have strong anti-homosexual sentiments. For example, there was a 38k-strong petition against gay marriage just handed to the government here in Estonia.
    The Soviet Union dissolved over 20 years ago, but it’s going to take a long time yet to undo the damage and influence Russia had over it’s members-by-force.

  • NoMore

    Ok. If violence is what they want, than they shall have it.

  • GCT

    The story about casting stones is a late addition. And, Jesus did do quite a lot of judging.

  • GCT

    I would down-vote this if I could. The answer to violence isn’t more violence. ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.’

  • Spuddie

    But so appropriate to his message.

    Jesus did a lot of judging of people who acted inhumanely, were greedy, used religious laws to further their own ends, people who found excuses to hate each other.

    But he had this to say about homosexuality, ” “.

  • GCT

    It was not that appropriate. He did a lot of judging of people who didn’t worship him or agree with him. If you didn’t do as he said, you were damned for eternity to hell, which is one of the most inhumane ideas ever invented.

    I really wish we would stop perpetuating the bullshit trope that Jesus was some paragon of virtue.

  • Spuddie

    I am not disagreeing with you at all. Well he WAS a monotheist. They tend to be kinda stupid about that.

    As for Jesus as a paragon of virtue, I never said that. Nor will. However, I would like it if his followers would pay attention to the context of what he said once in a blue moon.

    I ascribe to the Gandhian view of Jesus, I like what he had to say on a number of subjects, but find most of his followers intolerable pains in the ass.

  • jdm8

    I think religion would be as much of a culprit, if not more. Orthodox church before communism probably was anti-homosexual, and post communism carried on the same tradition.

  • GCT

    I’m rather glad that they don’t pay attention to a lot of the context, because it wasn’t nice. Modern Xians/Xianity has been changed by history, society, etc. Going back to the ideas of Jesus would be a profound step backwards.

  • kagekiri

    Yeah, he also judged everyone who thought a bad thought ever, preached self-mutilation, argued against fighting for rights or against oppressors and said to appease them instead, and said people who rejected him would go to Hell to suffer forever.

    He also preached many parables essentially blaming humanity for all problems while sneakily never mentioning God and his incredible apathy towards humanity. Parables of the sower, parable of the talents, parable of the vineyard owner, parable of the harvest, etc; God doesn’t mind losing people’s lives, and doesn’t stick around to care for his supposed creation.

    I reject the Gandhian view: Jesus was at best, meh with his good ideas, and the new stuff he brought to the morality table was terrible and unworthy of mention.

  • NoMore

    I realize it was harsh and I apologize for considering the quickest solution, instead of the right one. Please do not mistake my anger for an inability to make the right decisions, I would never start a fight, but I do not back down from them.

  • Spuddie

    He provided grist for mills of many an annoying bible thumping zealot for sure. Monotheism definitely tends to create this type more than other types of faith.

    There is an interesting take on the whole appeasement to conquerors thing in the anthology “What If 2″, the chapter discusses “What if Jesus was not crucified?”.

    The author went to great lengths to show that the Romans would have no problems from the Christians since he was preaching about obeying the imperial overlords. Had he grown old, he would have been more or less a Roman lackey. Someone useful in keeping the Judeans quiet. He would have fallen into irrelevance. Strange read, but worth a peek.

  • FBG

    70 years of violent suppression of religious expression of any kind, and anti-homosexual sentiment is still the fault of Russian Orthodoxy? Most Russians I knew in Russia thought very little about religion and practiced even less.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    That’s a bad idea. Not only is it wrong, and not likely to yield positive results, but the gay Georgians and their allies are horribly outnumbered.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    The Russian Orthodox Church has a great deal of influence in the Russian government. They are at the root of much of the anti-gay legislation found in Russia today.

  • f_galton

    What are you going to do, hit someone with your purse?

  • indorri

    If others only voted you down for your brashness, I consider that to be an incomplete decision. I am not convinced, as others are, that there is no place for violent retaliation, nor that such retaliation is immoral in and if itself. The main fault with this response, as someone else mentioned, is that it is unfeasible.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I am not able to either condemn or justify them. They are also humans.”

    If you cannot condemn the systematic attack and persecution of your fellow humans you don’t get rights yourself. I am going to say what I truly think of the Orthodox Church. FUCK YOU!!!! and your outdated backwards view of society. Ever since you stopped being persecuted and regained your control over society you have gone out of your way to persecute other groups. In Russia you work to make talking about LGBT issues into a punishable offense and in Georgia and other nations you whip people into a frenzy which leads to attacks on gay people. I normally don’t say this, but lets go back to the good old days of the USSR where you guys had to fear for your lives and worry about randomly disappearing in the middle of the night. I mean you couldn’t have possibly forgotten that what with you making an alliance between an ex-KGB agent who was more than happy to go after you a mere two decades ago in order to turn russia and other nations into a theocracy.

    Gays are not your problem it’s the shitty weather and low prospects,

  • FBG

    Legislation does not equal public opinion. Public opinion about homosexuality has remained the same in the last century, with or without the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

  • rg57

    Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe.

    Wikipedia says: “The Council of Europe [promotes] legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation.”

    You’d never know it.

  • NoMore

    What are you going to do, get someone pregnant so the kid can take the blow?

  • f_galton

    That does not make any sense.

  • NoMore

    A state of mind you are comfortable with, I’m sure.

  • baal

    My mob is bigger than your mob isn’t a solution. It’s how to continue having a problem. The solution is to get the cops to do their job and prosecute the christian thugs. Even if that fails, I wouldn’t suggest lynching the christian leaders of this mob as to ‘send a message’. Non-violent civil disobedience might be a better (and more effective) route to take.

  • NoMore

    Huh? You don’t think pride parades are a form of non-violent civil disobedience?

  • baal

    I was replying to indorri who doesn’t have ethical concerns over the use of violence (in this one comment). I do think pride parades are a good thing and could count as civil disobedience in certain cases.

  • Carmelita Spats

    Oh, come on…Priests are “gentle” and “kind” and “decent”…They teach “love” and “understanding” EXCEPT when confronting a gay pride parade or on the off off chance they find themselves gripping brooms at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem…Greek Orthodox Vs Armenian…¡Sábado Gigante! It would have been funnier with socks full of wooden screws instead of brooms….