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U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report 2006

September 16, 2006

Following are excerpts from the US State Department's report on Greece. For the full text please see the link below.

International Religious Freedom Report 2006
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

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 to court minority churches that operate or build places of worship without a permit. In practice, this happens rarely.

In May 2004, Nikodim Tsarknias, a former Greek Orthodox priest who is now a priest of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, was sentenced to three months in prison, a sentence which was suspended by the Aridea Criminal Court of First Instance, on charges of establishing and operating a church without authorization after he held Macedonian language religious services without a house of prayer permit. Tsarknias's sentence could not be appealed in the country; he intended to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

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. Non-Orthodox religious organizations 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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