SYRIZA Wants State Break With Church
Jan 28th, 2013
A proposal by a Member of Parliament from the major opposition Coalition
of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party for separation from the government
with the Greek Orthodox Church – and a tax on those who declare
themselves to be Orthodox Christians – has prompted an angry response
from the ruling New Democracy Conservatives.
Speaking at a conference organized by the theology department at
Aristotle University, SYRIZA lawmaker Tasos Kourakis spoke in favor of a
separation of the Church of Greece and the state with the church funding
itself rather than via state coffers.
Kourakis added that another option would be to impose a church tax on
all Greeks who declare themselves to be Christian Orthodox. The MP said
the revenues raised could be used to cover church costs and clerics’
salaries. Similar taxes apply in other European countries, including
New Democracy issued a statement condemning Kourakis and SYRIZA,
likening the proposal to “Stalinist measures” and arguing that it would
be unconstitutional as it would discriminate between Greeks based on
their religious beliefs. As many as 96 percent of Greeks have reportedly
said they are Orthodox believers. The government pays the salaries of
priests and the church has been fighting attempts to impose more taxes
on the institution during the country’s crushing economic crisis.
SYRIZA opposes the terms of bailout conditions that have kept the
economy from collapsing but imposed big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed
pensions. The party is a motley collection of Communists, a doctrine
that forbid religious worship, as well as other far-Leftist elements
that include some who declared themselves to have anarchist backgrounds.
While SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has been in the U.S. on a tour to
convince skeptics that his party is not extremists, his lawmakers have
been increasingly speaking out against the coalition government, with
New Democracy claiming the Leftists want to bring down the government
and are fostering political violence.