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US State Department International Religious Freedom Report 2004

September 20, 2004

U.S. Department of State

International Religious Freedom Report 2004 - Greece

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The following are excerpts from the report. For the full text, please see the link above.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Minority religious groups have requested that the Government abolish laws regulating house of prayer permits, which are required to open houses of worship. Local police have the authority to bring minority churches to court that operate or build places of worship without a permit.

Nikodim Tsarknias, a former Greek Orthodox priest who is now a priest of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, held religious services in Macedonian, the language of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, without a house of prayer permit. In May Tsarknias was sentenced to 3 months in prison by the Aridea Criminal Court of First Instance on charges of establishing and operating a church without authorization. The jail sentence was under appeal at the end of the period covered by this report.

Several religious denominations reported difficulties in dealing with the authorities on a variety of administrative matters. Privileges and legal prerogatives granted to the Greek Orthodox Church are not extended routinely to other recognized religions. The non-Greek Orthodox churches must provide separate and lengthy applications to government authorities on such matters as gaining permission to move places of worship to larger facilities. In contrast, Greek Orthodox officials have an institutionalized link between the church hierarchy and the Ministry of Education and Religion to handle administrative matters.

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