On March 12, 2019 the online edition, “Georgia and the World” (Geworld) published information headlined: “Perverts attacked the Court of Greece”. According to Geworld, in January 2019 the Court of Greece delivered its verdict to the bishop of the Episcopal of Hellas, Metropolitan Ambrosios of Kalavryta, who “dared to criticize homosexuals”. It is noted in the article, that Metropolitan Ambrosios, with secular name Athanasios Lenis, wrote a blog post with a call to “spit on” homosexuals and noted, that “they are non-humans, monsters of nature!”, for which the Court found him guilty of incitement to hatred and abuse of authority.
Geworld’s article is manipulative, as it purposely distorts the real basis of the non-appealable decision of the Court handed down for a clergyman and relates it to the criticism of homosexuals. In fact, the basis for founding the Metropolitan guilty was public incitement to violence and hatred, which according to International Law standards, is a crime and comes from the standard of freedom of expression defined in “The European Convention on Human Rights” and UN pact “About civil and political rights”.
The Court of Greece sentenced the Metropolitan Ambrosios for public incitement to violence and hatred
For the statement made in 2015, Metropolitan Ambrosios appeared before the court for public incitement to hatred and violence against the LGBT community, breaching his duty as a Church official. However, the Court of Aigio found him innocent in March 2018 and released him. The decision has been appealed by Aigio Criminal Court, which found the Metropolitan guilty and sentenced him to 7-month imprisonment in January 2019. It should be noted that it was the first case of producing senior clergyman before the Court in Greece.
- What did Metropolitan Ambrosios write in his statement?
The statement in a blog post for which the Metropolitan has been sentenced to 7-month imprisonment, as Greek edition spreads, was the following:
“Spit on them! Vote against them! They are not humans! They are freaks of nature! Mentally and spiritually sick! They are mentally insane! Do not hesitate! Wherever you see them, spit on them! Do not live them in peace! They are dangerous!”
Noted statement the Metropolitan did in the Parliament of Greece in 2015, regarding the debates on giving marriage rights to the same-sex couples. After his calling caused indignation in a part of society, the Metropolitan stated, that with the post blog he addressed not the LGBT society, but those politicians, who supported same-sex marriage. However, the Metropolitan put on record similar position about homosexuals even after that case. Particularly, staging a Gay pride in Thessaloniki in 2016 he evaluated as provocation and stated:
“From the perspective of Christianity, these ethically abnormal personalities, who are the descendants of people who once lived in Sodom and Gomorrah, exposed insolently and with pride in front of us, as it is said, celebrating passions of their souls, but they are not “a thing of pride”, as they personally claim, but are shameless and outrageous! Unfortunately, nowadays shamelessness is “in fashion!”
In addition, it should be noted, that Metropolitan is famous for supporting ultra-nationalistic, pro-Russian party ”Golden Dawn” and has several times appeared with its leader in public.
According to the International Law Standards, public incitement to violence is punishable
According to the article 10 of “The European Convention on Human Rights”, the freedom of expression may be a subject to limitations by state on several grounds, including the aim to protect the rights of others.
According to the article 20 of UN pact on Civil and Political rights, an address aimed at inciting any national, racial or religious animosity, which represents the incitement to discrimination, animosity or violence, should be prohibited by law. Noted International acts define the standard, in accordance with which, the state has a right, to limit some forms of freedom of expression by law, including, public incitement to violence, which means encouragement to commit a violent action towards any concrete group (religious, ethnic, social and etc.) of society, using hate speech.
In the majority of European states such form of hate speech is not being protected by the freedom of expression. As for the USA, a person using hate speech will be imposed liability only if his calling poses a direct, obvious and real threat of violence towards the addressee.