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Influence of Patriarchate of Georgia on the Georgian Society

By Levan Khutsishvili
Tuesday, May 29
On May 27, During the preaching in Holy Trinity Church Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia II spoke about the strained relations between the opposition-minded TV company Rustavi 2 and the patriarchate of Georgia.

"I would like to say a few words about the issues that exist between the Church and Rustavi 2. I want to tell you that if you speak about Christianity in a gruff manner you will not stay unpunished. We pray for every person who believes in God and orthodoxy, they are our spiritual children and I hope that our relations will improve ", said the Patriarch.

The conflict started with the journalist Giorgi Gabunias’ TV show about new initiatives of changes in Law of Culture, which grants rights to ban certain creative works.

According to the Public Defender, the draft law on the freedom of creativity prepared by Georgian Dream lawmakers is incompatible with the Constitution of Georgia and restricts freedom of creativity. The Public Defender notes that, under the Constitution of Georgia, "interfering in creative processes, censorship in the field of creative activity is inadmissible" without any exception.

According to the ombudsman the tendency of restriction of freedom of expression in the country is obvious, in particular, in the case of “AIISA” and the initiative of making insult of religious sentiments a criminal offense. The main actor and censor in the cases of religion and understanding of traditions in Georgian society is Georgian Orthodox Church, which enjoys power over the major part of Georgian Society and some parts of Georgian Political establishments.

When Georgian Patriarchate published the statement that asks clergy to cut all relations with Rustavi 2, not to give interviews and not to take part in any TV shows, also asks everyone who believes in the Church and its values to do the same. Some politicians immediately agreed with the statement of the Patriarchate:

“The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia fully agrees with the statement made by the Patriarchate on May 24, 2018. We share the spirit of this statement. We will act to defend our faith, our Church and our nation's interests. None of the members of "Alliance of Patriots of Georgia" will go to "Rustavi 2", writes Irma Inashvili.

Dimitry Khundadze, MP from the ruling Georgian Dream says that probably he will not have any relation with Rustavi 2 in future.

“Everyone has the right to share or not accept this call. I think not only about rights but moral obligations. People have freedom of expression, but there are ethical norms too. Perhaps everyone should protect these norms and respect our views," said Dimitri Khundadze.

Influence of Georgian church over the society is very often discussed and most of the researches show that the Georgian Church and the Patriarch have highest rating among the public figures.

The Church is openly fighting against LGBT communities. It does not openly support the extremist right-wing movements, but does not criticize them for hate speech and radical activities either. Some groups are using conservative attitudes of the church to promote neo-Nazi values in some parts of the society. The church is also “using” radical groups to influence the society and spread its values.

The Boycott to the Rustavi 2 indicates to real power of the church over the politicians and the society. It is interesting to observe the pattern of Rustavi 2’s rating after the Patriarchat’s statement.