From Direct Financing to Secularization: Rethinking State Policy towards Religious Institutions in Georgia

Published: 8 Jan 2020

This policy paper aims at critically evaluating current policies of state funding for religious organizations in Georgia, arguing that the existing approach needs reassessment and reform. The paper argues that the current policies go beyond the frames of compensation of damage caused during the Soviet era, described in the 2002 Constitutional Agreement between State of Georgia and the Orthodox Autocephaly Church of Georgia. Regardless of the Agreement, the amounts of damage and compensation have not been calculated and yearly funding depends on the political will of the government, leaving ample room for arbitrary decisions. Moreover, the current policies are discriminatory, privileging the Orthodox Church, discriminating against religious minorities, and therefore jeopardizing the principles of secularism, religious freedom, and religious neutrality.
This policy paper advances the argument that, considering the principle of secularism and religious neutrality, as well as the Constitution of Georgia, Georgian policymakers must rethink the existing policies of state funding to religious organizations and elaborate medium- and long-term strategies to refine the existing approach. Rather than maintaining the existing funding policies or eliminating state funding for religious organizations altogether, the state should take specific steps towards reforming the current legislation and practices.
Specifically, the paper argues that, in the medium term, the state can ensure damage compensation for injustices experienced in the Soviet era after calculating the total amount of monetary or other support, as in the case of Hungary. In the longer term, support to religious institutions can be made voluntary, based on one’s belief (or non-belief), rather than political will of the authorities, as in the cases of Spain, Iceland, Finland, and Denmark.

  • Published year: 2016
  • Publisher: Free University of Tbilisi
  • Page count: 20
  • Language: English