Greece's Leader Wants to Separate Church and State

Photo Credit: Static

Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, is an atheist leader of  traditionally Orthodox country, and his election was not accepted well among many religious Greeks. He refused a religious oath that is traditional in Greece, and was also blamed for wildfires in Athens due to his godlessness. Now Tsipras wants to separate church and state and he is stepping into the battle of global secularization.

His idea is that the Orthodox Church is going to support his proposal to introduce “religious neutrality” to the country. “Church and state have the maturity, the wisdom and the sensitivity to put their relations on a rational basis,” he told a meeting of (Coalition of the Radical Left) SYRIZA’s parliamentary group, adding that it is time to enshrine the religious neutrality of the Greek state in the country’s Constitution, as Patheos reports.

If Tsipras' idea becomes reality, the Church is going to lose a huge amount of its influence and power, so it is hard to believe that the Church is going to support the Prime Minister's idea and willingly relinquish its established privileges. Article 3 of the Greek constitution defines the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ as the "prevailing religion in Greece." Although the following articles express religious freedom for all faiths, minority groups (especially the Muslim-Turkish minority in western Thrace) they also ofen express discrimination.  This definition provides the Orthodox Church with some privileges and position above other churches. For example, in Greece couples can get married in Orthodox Church where ministers perform religious ceremonies and religious marriage is valid without civil marriage. This practice brings a lot of money to churches, and if secularization is introduced with constitutional changes there is a high chance that civil marriage is going to be an obligation.

With or without the Church's support, it is the right time for Greece to adopt real religious neutrality and outline it within the constitution. Government should not be allowed to pick a "prevailing religion" or give special terms and privileges to certain groups. Secularization is an important attainment of modern constitutional practice, it has been tested by time and it has more positive than negative effects.   

"I assume the state, the political world, the citizens, the church and believers have all reached the maturity that would lead them to logic and sensitivity to accept the rationalization of these relations," Tsipras said according to “There is a broad consensus for a new period in the relations between the church and the state,” Tsipras said, adding "We wish for a new framework that would determine the roles of both the church and the state. It is time for a clear indication of the religious neutrality of the Greek state within the constitution."

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