Leaders of minority churches in Greece have expressed support for a government proposal to scrap the obligatory indication of religious affiliation on citizens' identity cards. However, the proposed reform is vigorously opposed by the (Orthodox) Church of Greece and by many politicians and may well prove unpopular with many Greeks. A spokeswoman for the Church of Greece in Athens told ENI that belonging to the Orthodox Church was "part of being Greek." The Church of Greece is about to issue an official statement about the identity card issue.Disagreement over this bureaucratic matter is symbolic of the poor state of ecumenical relations in Greece. Antoni Koulouris, secretary-general of a small Protestant denomination, the Greek Reformed Church, which wants religious affiliation removed from the cards, said: "This old-fashioned provision has caused serious problems, and should be discontinued. Our state may be liberal in certain senses. But 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."Koulouris was commenting on recent calls for the reform by the center-left government of Costas Simitis, whose Socialist Party (PASOK) was returned to power in elections last month. After the election, Greece's justice minister, Michalis Stathopoulos, criticized what he described as the "exaggerated protection" enjoyed by the Orthodox Church. Article 3 of the Greek constitution declares that Orthodoxy is the "dominant religion," and prohibits Bible translations into Greek without prior consent from the Orthodox Church.Prime Minister Simitis indicated to the parliament in Athens this week that the government did not want religious ...1
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