The religious freedom of three Greek Pentecostals who are former air force officers is being debated in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, marking the first time that a democratic country has been forced to defend antiproselytism laws in an international court.

Dimitrios Larissis, Savvas Mandalaridis, and Ioannis Sarandis were convicted earlier in a Greek court for violations of a national law against religious proselytization and sentenced to several months in prison.

The first court ordered that the penalties be converted to fines and suspended the fines for three years provided the officers did not commit further offenses during that period. The officers appealed to two higher courts but were rejected. The European Commission for Human Rights forwarded the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which is hearing arguments in late September.

The trio's attorney is theologian John Warwick Montgomery, professor emeritus of jurisprudence and human rights at Luton University in England. Montgomery has successfully defended Protestants accused of proselytism in Greece before (CT, July 11, 1986).

The Greek Orthodox Church has traditionally sought government suppression of evangelistic efforts by other traditions.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.