Greece: Identity-Card Data Divide Churches

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Leaders of minority churches in Greece are supporting a government proposal to scrap the obligatory indication of religious affiliation on citizens' identity cards.The (Orthodox) Church of Greece and many politicians vigorously oppose the proposed reform, however, saying that belonging to the Orthodox Church is "part of being Greek."Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and other non-Orthodox individuals view the cards as tools of religious discrimination in the predominantly Orthodox nation."There's always a danger that an official who sees that you are not Greek Orthodox will react unfairly against you and raise questions about your nationality," says Antoni Koulouris, secretary-general of the Greek Reformed Church.Article 3 of the Greek constitution declares that Orthodoxy is the "dominant religion." Greece, with a population of 10.2 million people, is about 97 percent Orthodox."Things should stay as they are; minority church members don't have to feel ashamed of what they are," says a Church of Greece official. "Since most people are Orthodox, they obviously won't want their children to be taught by Catholics or teachers belonging to some other religion. This is natural and understandable. It isn't a case of discrimination."Yet legal curbs imposed on non-Orthodox denominations in the 1930s still remain on the books. Building a place of worship, for example, requires an Orthodox bishop's approval.

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