On October 31, 2004, the Archibishop of Athens declared, while preaching, that homosexuality is an evident sin and a defect. He also defended the right of representatives of political institutions (meaning the Italian candidate for the European Commission) to publicly express their disapproval of a whole social group of European citizens. The HLHR does not put in question the right of representatives of religious communities to define, according to their dogmatic criteria, which behaviour they consider morally condemnable. Any lapse of their public discourse is after all subject to public criticism, which is far more effective than any repressive legal provisions and mechanisms.
However, one should not forger that as the above-mentioned religious community is also a State institution, its representatives are also high-rank State officials and their scope of intervention is the public political sphere. In that sense, their discourse, even when racist, has an institutional dimension. This discourse is therefore obviously unacceptable and instead of preventing discrimination and racist practice, it encourages them. In that sense, the expression of such views no longer enjoys the protection of freedom of speech and conscience. Whoever considers himself free to preach such ideas, in his capacities as a religious leader, with a self-proclaimed political mission, spares those who criticise him the burden of proof of his institutional racism.
The incident in question highlights in the best possible way the issues that derive from the existing anachronistic status of relations between the State and the Church in Greece. This situation creates a series of problems not only for the rest of the religious communities and their members, but also for the Church of Greece itself. It would be in the best interest of the latter to disconnect itself from the State, in order to freely express its views, without being subject to the restrictions that are valid for State institutions. However, until this disconnection is obtained, one would expect that the Head of a moral person of public law control his public discourse, so as not to give the impression that the implementation of laws depends on his own criterion of sin.
For the Board of the HLHR
The Chairperson The Secretary General
Dimitris Christopoulos Yannis Ktistakis