Religious Freedom in Greece

Our letter to the Council of Europe, December 2004

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Athens, Greece, DECEMBER, 2004


We regret to say that your statements that:

«progress has been achieved with respect to religious freedom in Greece»


«Progress is noted in the matter of permits for places of Worship»




We are the adherents to the Hellenic Religion of Dodecatheon, the traditional-patrimonial religion of the Greeks since ancient times (more information about us in our website: We managed to survive through the centuries, despite the well known persecutions against us based on the Justinian Code, which directed that we be put to death by torture, using metallic objects; and the unquenchable hatred of the Eastern Orthodox Church for us.

The National uprising (the revolution of 1821-war of liberation from the Ottoman Empire) did not lead to religious freedom in Hellas (Greece). On the contrary, the Eastern Orthodox Church tried in every way possible to bring about our extinction. We were the victims of an illegal, systematic and forced conversion effort and our communities in mid-mainland Greece were harshly persecuted. At long last, and after 1981, at which time the ruling political party's declarations were made about respecting human rights, we decided to legally demand our Human rights, as well. We rejoiced therefore when the 2462/1997 law was passed, which validated the UN General Assembly's decisions concerning Human Rights. All this, however, was a false hope, since the aforementioned laws did not pertain or at least did not apply to all Greek citizens. The laws were merely validated for the purpose of presenting them to the UN inspectors, so that Greece would not be expelled from the United Nations!

The Greek State (Hellenic Democracy) has persistently denied us legitimacy. Our belief and reliance in the system has cost us dearly, since the public appearance of a number of our followers has made them targets of various illegal persecutions, repeatedly! Unfortunately, the persecutions continue to this day and the right to religious freedom is still lacking, completely, at least for us.


Thus, bearing in mind the seriousness of the following accusations, we categorically and regretably denounce Greece as a country in which Human Rights are not well protected, at least freedom of religion is not for all of its citizens equally.

There are a number of Human Rights, that we enjoy in Greece of course, such as the freedom of political affiliation. It is another matter entirely when we wish to express freely our basic convictions in addressing fundamental rights questions, such as the one about Man or Cosmos, however!!

Man as a thinking being ponders on these questions. Proof of this is those who have worked on the Human Rights issues from a philosophical point of view; the authors of Human Rights charters, as well the governments that have affixed their signatures of approval of these charters, all unanimously decreed, that the First Human Right which is the root of all other Rights, is the one concerning religious freedom. This really constitutes the individual's primary defence against the state's authority and its abuse, and has been characterized by legalists as "the root of individual freedom".

The right to religious freedom is, unfortunately, not equally afforded to all citizens of Greece, since one must be either Orthodox Christian or else not exist at all. Thus in reality, despite the attitudes and policies towards other rights, it is of little or no value at all for us, because of the prevailing attitude towards religion.

The above are not our own views, alone. It is a known fact that the European Human Rights Court is continuously handing down convictions of Greece, concerning freedom of religion matters.


The Greek State by its laws divides its citizens into two categories as far as religion is concerned. To those who believe in the three "Byzantine" religions (Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam), who are afforded the right of religious freedom; and those of other faiths, denominations or creeds to whom this right (Right of Religious Freedom) is denied. This latter group is afforded the right to "holy worship" only, which is a even much less important concept, than Freedon of Religion afforded the first group.

However, the Greek Government does not even enforce existing laws and illegally and arbitrarily and against the law and the Constitution, and ignoring its own signature of approval on all Human Rights International Agreements, totally deprives certain Greek citizens the Right of Religious Freedom, totally. It goes as far as to disallow even the right to "holy worship", as well in certain cases!


1) The Greek Government follows a policy of religious oppression....

the result of which is that the Eastern Orthodox Church has essentially become a 'State-Enforced religion'; and the other faiths or denominations are barely, if at all, tolerated. The following certainly point in that direction:

-- The obligatory, brainwashing quality catechesis in schools and the brainwashing of members of the armed forces, the illegal association of public schools with catechetical schools of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

-- The special and favorable treatment of members of the armed forces who follow the 'predominant' faith of Orthodoxy. Even the ability of the military to perform their duties and the loyalty of public employees is some how dependent or related to their association with the Christian Orthodox Creed!!!

-- The illegal maintaining of extensive files with records of the religious preferences and beliefs of the citizens who serve as public employees, of students in schools and generally, of the totality of citizens, by the security related agencies of the state.

-- There is an infinite number of laws in favor of the Eastern Orthodox Church, including being exempted from taxation and being government supported; the clergy, for example, the priests are paid by the government as they are considered employees of the state. Naturally with funds obtained from our taxation in order to support a religion, that we do not espouse!!

-- There is the constant, indispensable and authoritative presence of the Eastern Orthodox Church officials, ie priests, bishops etc, in every public or state activity ie the non-religious celebration of national holidays, the religious oath of members of Parliament and of the ministers of the Government etc. This certainly re-enforces the idea of a 'State Religion'.

-- Generally and for some strange reason the State attributes compliance with the law to having connection with the Eastern Orthodox Church. It also makes it amply clear to every citizen that if one is not a Christian Orthodox, he is not in compliance with the law and could be therefore subject to consequences!! An example of this is a letter sent by an Eastern Orthodox Church bishop to Greek citizens who had left Orthodoxy and had espoused another denomination, whom he threatened with deportation, all this in 1970, no less!!!

-- A former Minister of Justice of the present Greek Government admits: «The Church wishes a state that guides its citizens towards a 'State Church' in essence. As a consequence, the state is in violation of fundamental human rights. Today's influence of the Church is not due to its own strength based on its teachings, spiritual work etc. alone, but also on the influence which the Church derives from its 'state status'. As such, the strength of the Church is not dependent on its own merits alone, but on borrowed strength from the state. The Church's influence acquires therefore an exogenous, artificial and unreal dimension to a great extent». [Michael Stathopoulos, The Constitutional Guarantee of Religious Freedom, published in Law Matters Regarding Religious Variants in Greece, Athens 1999, p. 208]

-- In addition, the Greek Government does not react to the various illegal and terrorizing acts of the Eastern Orthodox Church against other religions.

Regarding us, especially, the Greek State leaves us without lawful protection, as such we are subject to all kinds of pressure and without pretence, it grants the Eastern Orthodox Church of Greece, the right to exert pressure for our extinction; to hurl insults against us incessantly (officially, by its bishops giving sermons from the pulpit); to have established offices in every bishopric in order to monitor and record our activities, this of course against all civil liberties laws [The Greek Church Holy Synod, officially admitted the latter, as it announced it on Nov 6, 2001]. We have officially denounced this fact to the official and independent 'PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION AUTHORITY' on June 6, 2000, but without any action taken, to date, to protect us, however. Lastly, the Church attempts to hinder our religious activities with any method possible, thus violating systematically articles no. 196 and 199 of the Penal Code; and propagates enmity among us and our fellow citizens!! Our activities are concurrently monitored by the police and other state security agencies. Regarding this, we made our protests known to the Ministry of Public Order and the Ministry of Internal Affairs as the superior agency of the National Intelligence Service; thus far we have had no response.

2) Specifically about the right to Religious Freedom in Greece.

The right to Religious Freedom has two aspects: The social right and that of the individual.

a) The Social Right to Religious Freedom does not exist...

that is a certain religion or creed does not have the self-evident right to exist as a legal entity within the State's legal order of things. As far as the Greek State is concerned religions are non-existent and unsubstantial, with the exception of the three "Byzantine" religions (Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam). The State has granted those religions, special rights and privileges, such as the right to be a «legal person of Public Law», through specific laws.

The European courts have ruled, however, that such special treatment of certain religions has to be 'sufficiently justified'. The Greek State has never provided such justification, thus far.

Regarding the American State Department's report on religious freedom in Greece and Greece's response, the following remarks have to be noted:

1. Greece asserts that all religions are &'equivalent'. However, apart from the aforementioned issues, no law exists that would allow a religion to be officially recognized and to acquire legal entity status. The religions that have acquired legal entity status, as the above mentioned three religions, have done so through special laws enacted specifically for them. Consequently, there is surely no equivalency between all religions, since some have legal entity status being «legal person of Public Law» and others cannot acquire it.

2. Greece asserts that the observation that minority religions are not allowed to own property is false, since all physical and legal entities in Greece have this right to do so. This is not so, however, since a religion, obviously, not a physical entity and since it does not have the ability to acquire legal entity status, therefore, cannot own property. An example of that is the recent troubles of the Roman Catholic Church having been adjudged legally non-existent at all levels of the judicial system!

b) As far as the right of the individual to religious freedom is concerned....

The right of the individual to religious freedom has many aspects and only members of the three aforementioned religions enjoy all of them fully.

As far as the other religions or denominations are concerned, the Greek State arbitrarily and by special legislation, grants to certain of them some but not all aspects of the many that are part of the right of Religious Freedom of the individual.

For example, the Greek State recognizes and arbitrarily directs the official recording in the National bureau of Public Records of weddings, baptisms, funerals and naming ceremonies of certain religions or denominations, only. In order to remedy this injustice against us we submitted two petitions in 1998, requesting to be recognized as a religion «known» and «acceptable». We had attached a list of 2.500 signatures requesting this. We had wished to be included in the «Registry of the 'known' religions» in order to enable us to record sacraments and ceremonies conducted by our religion in the Registry of Public Records, as mentioned above, just as the other recognized religions do. Our petitions were not answered properly.

Additional aspects of the individual's right of Religious Freedom that we do not enjoy and especially protest against are (a) the right to dispose the bodies of our dead by cremation which is the traditional Greek way of disposing the body, since Homeric Age, and (b) the right to enter and have a Holy Service in our Holy Places. The Greek Sacred Sites of Antiquity are today the property of Ministry of Culture as Archaeological sites. We have submitted a lot of petitions requesting to be allowed to enter in one or two Sacred Sites --just once a year for a half an hour's Holy Service-- but the Ministry of Culture did not answer our petitions completely, as such disregarding the right, that we are guaranteed, not only by the Constitution but also by the «UN declaration concerning the rights of indigenous people to their sacred places», as well.

For all the other religions or denominations that are not favored by special legislature, the law of the Greek State recognizes the individual right of Freedom of Worship, only.

We cannot understand the State's justification for granting certain religions rights and priviledges denied to others. The Greek Govermnment categorizes religions without proper justification!!!

c) As far as the Individual Right of Freedom of Worship is concerned....

it is, the ONLY part of the total number of rights which constitute the Human Right to Religious Freedom that the Greek State permits to be exercised by adherrents of '3d category' religions and consists of establishing a Place of Worship (this has a weaker legal status, than a Church or Temple. According to law only the Eastern Orthodox Church has the right to have Churches or Temples). This right is based on two Compulsory Laws passed in 1938-1939, a turbulent period of dictatorship, and another law passed in 1942, during the German occupation of Greece. The purpose of these laws was to hinder the granting of even the minimal of human rights. These laws are unconstitutional from many aspects, and certain of their provisions insult the citizens' dignity since they humiliate them by permitting the Orthodox Church to interfere with their right of Freedom of Worship.

d) Our petition for permission for a Place of Worship....

Despite of all the above, we DID apply for permission to establish a Place of Worship according to the aforementioned laws, on June 28, 2001. The petition was accompanied by a list of significant number of signatures.

After the petition was received by the proper department of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, civil employees there informed us that our file was complete, ie we had supplied all the documents necessary and it was a FIRST, for a file to be so complete and to be accompanied by many more signatures than were required by law. They also related to us that since, there were so many convictions of Greece by the European Human Rights Court, exactly, for stalling to issue permissions for a Place of Worship, this time such a permission would have been promptly issued.

Despite of such assurances, our petition has not been approved, even three years have passed!!!

The former Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, Mr. Petros Euthimiou, has not responded to our requests for a hearing with him! From our several contacts with the civil employees in the appropriate department we have been left with the impression that our petition may never be answered, most likely!!

The official and independent authority 'CITIZEN'S ADVOCATE' (Obdursman) that we appealed to, has informed, rather in vain, the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs that the Minister can not exercise, in this case, 'discretion', and that he has the obligation to reply to our petition within a reasonable length of time and to give a final reply or to explain the reasons for the delay, for not doing so at all. Just the same was the opinion of the official and independent authority « Human Rights National committee».

We have by now applied for permission to establish three other Places of Worship outside the Capital. But thw silence still persists and the New Greek Government has a CLEARLY hostile attitude towards us!

The Greek State tells us that even these humiliating long outdated laws, actually referred as 'fossils' and characterized as such in a scientific article written by the general secretary of the department of Religions of the Ministry, do not pertain to us, and that they exist only, to be presented to the UN inspectors, upon request!

In our case, the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs violates the constitution and laws of the Greek State. It strengthens the obstacles set in our way by the aforementioned laws and reckons that these laws are indeed very liberal and it would probably be a good idea, if we were to return to the Justinian Code which as mentioned above demanded that every citizen either be Christian Orthodox or not exist at all!!


The Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs conceals the truth, in this case, from international organizations. According to the official position of the authorized director of the ministry, who stated during the Conference for the Religious Freedom on March 8, 2002, that «Now, there is a speedy approval of all requests for Places of Worship and that there is none pending for approval»! Similar assurances and explanations were also given to the European Council.


Thus, having exhausted all of our requests, petitions, appeals and pleas with the Greek authorities and organizations; we now turn to the public and international organizations and call on them to morally stigmatize and condemn the hostile attitude of the Greek Government towards Human Religious Rights. In the hope that international pressure will come to bear and force the Greek Government to respect, at last, the Greek Constitution and its signature affixed on International Human Rights Agreements.


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