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This collection of essays on religious rights endeavors to clarify the philosophical, legal, and political aspects defining relations between the State and the Orthodox Church of Greece (OCG). It is the latest publication in a series of studies produced by scholars belonging to the Minority Groups Research Center (MGRC) established three years ago to fill a large gap in the study of minority phenomena in Greece. Until very recently, the study of such phenomena was overwhelmed by a climate of defensive nationalism and marred by censorship, political bias, and a lack of systematic scholarly enquiry. In contrast, these essays are commonly defined by a critical stance towards the powerful privileges that the Greek State continues to accord to Orthodoxy. Article 3 of Greece's 1974 Constitution establishes the OCG as the "dominant religion," an anachronistic system of State religion contradicting the model of secular and liberal democracy premised upon the separation of Church and State. The purpose of this volume is to identify the regulatory parameters of religious freedom in the country's legal system, as well as to explore the extent to which the Church's privileged position produces policies and attitudes that constitute a violation of civil rights and the rights of religious minorities (14).
Although the contributors to the volume do not engage in an explicit dialogue with one another, the collection has a large degree of thematic and theoretical cohesion that might have been reinforced by a succinct conclusion. At the same time, the diversity of views and methodologies reflected in the essays prompts an interesting and constructive debate with implications for an understanding of the nature and scope of the secular State. Written by a combination of promising young scholars and well-established experts in the field, the essays display a thorough knowledge of the subject and are grounded in careful analysis and empirical research. In addition, they provide rich comparative case study material for scholars of countries other than Greece and raise broader theoretical issues such as that of the relation between religion and politics, collective and individual rights, national and European identity. Despite the fact that they are written principally by legal scholars, the essays will be of great interest to sociologists, political scientists, and historians seeking to understand contemporary Greece and the many changes which its society, politics, and national identity are experiencing under the influence of European law and the EU in general.
Written from the perspective of constitutional law, the essays of Yeorgos Sotirelis and Mihalis Stathopoulos criticize the failure of Greek lawmakers, political parties, and elites in the post-1974 period to revise the Constitution towards the separation of Church and State. Adamantia Pollis's contribution situates this failure in the country's historical development, one that produced an intricate intermeshing of Orthodox religion and Greek national identity. As a result, Greece has remained a problematic exception among the secular Western European States, unable to shed the image of a "Greece of Greek Christians" () and mature into a pluralistic, tolerant, [End Page 218] and liberal democracy. Such constitutional provisions as those mandating "the development of religious consciousness," and denying rights to conscientious objectors, testify to the intolerant, if not theocratic, character of the Greek State. Orthodox religion and its traditions are imposed from above, from a position of political power that circumscribes the rights and freedom of religious minorities, as well as those of individuals to be different and to freely develop their own consciousness and personality. The authors challenge the image of Greece as a homogeneous nation, pointing to polls that show a significant percentage of individuals with atheist and religiously neutral sentiments, despite the ongoing and central symbolic value of Orthodoxy to ideas of "Greekness."
Sotirelis and Stathopoulos make the important observation that the powerful political position of the OCG is a double-edged sword which comes at a heavy cost, namely a degrading spiritual enslavement of Orthodoxy and...