Atheist Union of Greece protests outdated blasphemy laws

(Photo illustration: Shutterstock)

(Photo illustration: Shutterstock)

A Greek man felt the wrath of his country’s outdated blasphemy laws after satirising a Greek Orthodox monk on a Facebook page he created. The administrator of the social networking page, Filippos Loizos, 28, was handed a 10 month prison sentence after he used a play on words to compare the late Father Paisios to a traditional pasta-based dish. His arrest in 2012 saw online communities erupt as thousands of Greeks took to social networks to protest his detention.

According to the Atheist Union of Greece, the popularity of Loizos’ Facebook page following his satirical remark angered right wing and religious groups in the country. Golden Dawn, the now banned Greek neo-fascist party, took advantage of the uproar by raising a question in parliament about Loizos and his violations of two Greek laws covering blasphemy and insulting religion. Ultimately Loizos was arrested.

Loizos’ case is not the first of its kind. The  Union has now called upon the Commissioner for Human Rights for the Council of Europe, Nils Muižnieks, to repeal Articles 198 and 199 of the Greek Penal Code.

Article 198 punishes any public and malicious blasphemy against God with a maximum of two years imprisonment, three months’ for the public “manifest of a lack of respect for the divinity”. Article 199 covers a broader religious spectrum and offers two years’ jail time for “one who publically and maliciously and by any means blasphemes the Greek Orthodox Church or any other religion tolerable in Greece”.

In a letter sent to Commissioner Muižnieks the Union remarked: “The insult of religion, on the other hand does not harm any citizen, as does the case of insulting people. Only the followers of religions deserve respect and may be offended—not the religion itself—and criticism and/or satire of a religious belief is not identical to insulting persons having this belief.”

They claimed that any disturbance caused by Loizos’ page has been done so by the uncontrolled reactions of angry, religious fanatics who are merely using the Penal Code articles as an excuse to be disruptive. According to the European Court of Human Rights, case Handyside vs the United Kingdom, 1976 (and in many instances since) freedom of expression is a fundamental right in a free society and includes the right to criticize ideas, even when the criticism bothers holders of those ideas.

Loizos has appealed the ruling.

This article was posted on 22 January 2014 at