Greek army personnel will be allowed to sew images of military patron saints onto their uniforms, according to a report in To Vima newspaper this week.
This is the latest in a series of interesting entanglements between Church and State in Greece under the ‘First Time Left’ government of Mr Tsipras and his far right side-kick Mr Kammenos.
I have complained a lot recently on this blog about the nationalist religious mania that seems to be overtaking the government after the re-election of Syriza-ANEL in September. This found expression both in education and in doing favours to the church in relation to capital controls. The disease is now spreading it seems.
What is actually the position of the church in Greek law? The economist in an article explaining the possible consequences of a left (ha!) government in Greece with an atheist (ha, ha!) as its head on the state-church relationship had noted the following. Severing the connection between church and state would presumably mean: i) stripping the Orthodox church of its constitutionally guaranteed role as the “prevailing religion” in Greece; ii) ending the arrangement where priests and many other people who work for the church are on the state pay-roll; iii) tidying up and in some cases sequestering the church’s vast and ill-defined property portfolio; iv) putting a stop to the prayers and confessional instruction which are part of the daily diet for almost all pupils at state schools; v) ending all tax exemptions for religious institutions.
Alas, the church had nothing to fear. With Mr Kammenos running the nationalist/orthodox bastion of the Ministry of Defence there is indeed little to be worried about, unless of course you are a Jew, or a Muslim or god forbid, an… atheist!
Is there a problem with saints on uniforms? To Potami (a parliamentary party) complained that after all the fuss about removing religious affiliation from ID cards, it is ridiculous that people’s beliefs will now be emblazoned on their army uniforms. I agree that it is ridiculous, but it goes beyond silliness, it is a gross violation of human rights. You may argue that the inclusion of the saint is voluntary, so it is not a problem? Sure, in the same way that opting not to have Christian Orthodox written on your ID card would lead everyone to ask every time you produced it, oh you are a Jew?
The Ministry of Defense replied with a press release that reads (see above):
«η ανακοίνωση που εξέδωσε το Ποτάμι για τις στολές των στρατιωτικών επιδέχεται απάντηση μόνο από τον Πνευματικό και τον Θεό τους, αν έχουν Θεό».
“The announcement issued by Potami about army uniforms deserves an answer only by their spiritual guide and their God, if they have a God.”
Mr Kammenos little antics are a violation of the ECHR, they are stupid, they are wrong, they belong in Iran, not in a European Greece. It is hilarious that it is the members of ANEL who fret about ISIS infiltrators arriving as refugees, while they are working full throttle to turn Greece into a theocracy.
Greece had to withstand 7 years of nationalist, religious, fanatical idiocy at the hands of the Junta colonels. Please gentlemen of SyrizANEL, spare us a re-run.