Bill to Punish “Insults to Religious Feelings” Withdrawn from Georgian Parliament

If you’ve heard discussions about the phrase “Happy Holidays” on Fox News, then you know that religious sentiments can be very delicate indeed. Eager to spare the sensibilities of the faithful from unpleasantness, one Georgian lawmaker recently proposed an anti-blasphemy bill.

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Christian Today reports that Soso Jachvliani’s bill

… stated that it aimed to protect all religions, punishing irreverence toward religions by law.

It proposed imposing a fine of 100 lari (around £80) for “insults to religious feelings”, with the figure doubled for a repeat offence. Desecrating a religious symbol could result in a fine of 1,000 lari (£800), about the figure of the average monthly salary.

While the bill was “conditionally approved by the parliament’s human rights committee,” not everyone was thrilled with it. For rather obvious reasons, it raised concerns among the ruling party — not to mention both human rights groups and religious figures:

Criticism of the bill also came from within the Orthodox church. One Georgian Orthodox priest, Deacon Tamaz Lomidze, based in Germany said in a sermon: “Who can define religious feelings? What judge can rule on whether a certain action is insulting to to someone’s religion?”

Amnesty International said it feared that the bill threatened to “outlaw criticism of religious leaders and institutions, and suppress free speech on topical political and social issues.”

The conflict finally prompted Jachvliani to withdraw the bill on Monday, “saying it needed more work.” It is, obviously, good news that Georgia has decided to hold off on punishing people for the non-crime of blasphemy.

It will be even better news if they abandon such a silly scheme permanently, as the issue with the bill isn’t that it needs more work, but that it doesn’t even solve a real problem. It’s absurd to criminalize speech like blasphemy. After all, all powerful gods should be able to stand up to a little questioning or ridicule on their own.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Randy for the link)

About Rachel Ford

Rachel Ford is a programmer, and since 8:00 to 5:00 doesn't provide enough opportunity to bask in screen glare, she writes in her spare time. She was raised a very fundamentalist Christian, but eventually "saw the light." Rachel's personal blog is Rachel's Hobbit Hole, where she discusses everything from Tolkien to state politics.