Freedom of speech has been hotly debated in Georgia recently. A few weeks ago, someone posted video parity of the Georgian Patriarch insulting the Georgian president on Youtube and was linked on the person’s Facebook page. Since then, this person has received death threats and obscene language posted on her FB.
The Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) is highly regarded in the culture and society. When polled, people trust the church more than they do the government. I learned that there is even a special constitutional agreement recognizing the special role of the GOC.
Also, the church is exempt from paying taxes and even collects 25 million lari (approx $15 million USD) from the government every year, which the news article linked here states is “triple the amount spent by the state on professional education.” While I am not sure what the author includes in “professional education” but I think it can hardly be good.
While I am somewhat surprised by the broohaha over the posting of the videos, the thing that surprised me even more is that Georgia can hardly afford to give money to the church. The infrastructure, while not as bad as some places I have been, is still in need of repair. Roads in the city need work, pipes and buildings need replaced.
I haven’t been in too many public schools or universities here, however, from what I have seen, they all need repair and I read where some schools don’t even have enough school books for all the students. Yet, the government finds it possible to give the GOC $15 million USD.
I understand better why the government and opposition is vying so desperately for the blessings of the church. The church is building new structures all across the country while schools are crumbling. Freedom of speech is important in a democracy. But so is education and the opportunities afforded through it. Hopefully, the Georgian government, its leaders and the opposition will learn this before it’s too late.