Georgia with its devoutly Orthodox Christian set of communities, is proposing a ‘blasphemy bill’ that will make religious caricatures and comedic lampooning of faith, punishable in law.
The bill, which has been approved at the committee stage, has led critics to suggest that it will have a ‘chilling effect’ on those critics of the official church line and more importantly, on dissent regarding religion. Some have suggested that even theatre, art and plays which explored faith could fall foul of the new law.
The proposed bill attaches fines to those who target “insults to religious feelings” with a 100 lari fine ($120) . This would double for repeat offenders. And desecration of a religious icon would lead to a fine of 1000 laris. Given that the average salary in the country is about 800 laris, the new bill could prove impacts beyond curtailing freedom of speech.
This bill comes on the back of opposition to the opening of mosques and madrassas in the west of Georgia where groups have been active in lobbying against Muslim institutions.