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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM / Analytical Documents

Legal Assessment of the Financing Practices of the four Religious Denominations

  1. Review of the financing practices of the four religious organizations

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) has studied the agreements with the four religious denominations existing in Georgia (Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Armenian Churches), which are based on the decree by the Georgian government on January 27, 2014 (#117) “On establishing rules for implementing certain measures for partial compensation of damages caused during Soviet totalitarian regime”. The agreement regulates the purposes for the expenses for 2014 and the issues of accountability towards the State.

The specific amounts for damage compensation for the year of 2014 were the following: 1 100 000 Gel for the Muslim Community, 150 000 Gel for the Jewish Community, 200 000 Gel for Roman Catholic Church and 300 000 Gel for the Armenian Church. The total the amount was 1 750 000 Gel. The decree on March 13, 2014 (#437) envisaged paying 3 500 000 Gel from the reserve fund, but as the data indicates, the total amount spent in 2014 was two times less. The set amounts are visibly disproportional and the amount given to the Muslim Community is noticeably larger.

According to the State Agency on Religious Issues (Agency), while dividing the amount for the religious unions, the objective criteria were taken into consideration, such as: the number of parish and clerics, as well as, the number of sacred buildings and their current condition, present needs etc.

In the standard agreements with the religious organizations, there is a detailed explanation of purposes for the given amounts. Namely, there are payments as salaries for clerics and for performing religious services; restoring and maintaining religious buildings; religious-educational activities; ongoing everyday living expenses for religious unions; cultural and charity-related activities. Only the agreement signed with the Muslim community, clarifies that 75% of the amount will be used as salaries and payments for religious services and the rest must be used for other purposes mentioned in the agreement.

The annual amount allocated for religious unions, is divided and is transferred to respective organizations in installments, the exact date and amount is set by the Agency. In order to receive the amount, each religious union has an obligation to submit expense program consistent with the purposes described in the agreement, which must include the detailed data on expenses. At the same time, religious organizations have an obligation, in case there is a demand from the Agency, to submit interim and final report of expenses corresponding to the expense program. The Agency has an authority to conduct audit on the submitted expenses. In case of violation of the expense part of the agreement, according to the agreement, funding for the current year may be interrupted.

  1. Legal Analysis of the funding practices of the four religious denominations

2.1 The issue of inconsistency with the compensation model and breaching of the principle of secularism in the given case

The existing practice is not consistent with the model of compensation for damages and in fact, represents direct financing from the budget. Decree of January 27, 2014 doesn’t include sensible, fair and objectively measurable criteria on which the government can base its decision regarding the amount to be paid as compensation. [1] In the absence of legally established criteria, the review of criteria used by the Agency, demonstrates that it is not in any way connected with the actual damage and its consequences for the given religious unions.

In this respect, the practice of funding the four religious unions is similar to the practice of funding Georgian Orthodox Church. Despite the affirmed obligations by the State to compensate the damage caused to the church as defined in the article 11 of the constitutional agreement between the State and Georgian Orthodox Church, the obligations defined in the second part of this article, which included the issues of establishing the forms, amounts, timeframe, transferring property or land by the parity commission, was not fulfilled by the State. Consequently, the amounts issued annually from the State budget as direct transfers are legally based not on the article 11 of the constitutional agreement, but on the political will of the State. And this is not based on any objective, related, measurable criteria and the applicable legal base.

In the compensation model, beneficiaries have an opportunity to freely dispose received compensation, as the recovery of damages is a part of right to property and the reasons for receiving these amounts are based on legitimate interest of recovering the right that had been violated before, which on its side, may expire. While in the given cases, we witness the direct funding of religious unions from the State budget and using received amount for the religious reasons is inconsistent with the principle of secularism (more precisely, with the principle of inadmissibility of establishing a church by the State.) The mentioned principle forbids giving state funds to religious unions for secular, non-religious purposes and calls for maximum prevention of deepening the interdependence between church and state.

In the agreements with the four religious denominations, it is obvious that the allocated funds are clearly intended for religious activities only. The analysis of expenses of the state funding for Orthodox Church confirms that these amounts are spent for religious purposes.[2] It is obvious that the existing funding practice creates the separation problem between the State and the religious organizations and violates the principles of equality and religious neutrality of the state.

2.2. The problems of high risk of control in the existing model of financing of religious unions

The existing practice gives the State a chance to control and to attract loyalty among religious organizations. Financing practices of the four religious organizations demonstrate that the amounts for annual funding and the timeframes are defined entirely by the Agency. In case of violation of agreement in terms of set purposes for expenses, the State has the right to discontinue funding. This is inconsistent with the principle of damage compensation.

In this respect, it is noteworthy that the decision on funding of the four religious denominations, despite its importance, was made by subordinate acts and the government didn’t trust the parliament to make this decision. Consequently, amounts are transferred from the reserve fund and not from the State budget.

Doubts with regards to the interest of control are due to the fact that the State allocated larger part of the funds for the Muslim religious organizations, while other organizations also face challenges of returning/restoring their historic sacred buildings that had been lost and damaged. In the last few years, the government came across problems in this community and this maybe the reason for the interest for control. It is also noteworthy that 75% of the amount is spent on the Unified Georgian Muslims Management and on those who perform religious services, which is in fact, a mechanism of subordination and control. It must be mentioned that there are questions about the participation of Georgian government in establishing this management unit. [3]. There are doubts with regards to legitimacy of this unit because of the structure of the organizations, which is not democratic and doesn’t recognize any mechanism for receiving legitimacy from the Muslim community. During discussions of critically important issues (building new mosque in Batumi, events in village Mokhe), it became obvious that there is discrepancy between the positions of this management unit and the Muslim community. [4]

Thus, the existing model of state funding of religious denominations includes dangerously intensive control by the State over the expenses, which amounts to high risks of interfering with the independence and autonomy of religious unions. In the conditions, when the state connects the funding of four religious organizations to the compensation of damage caused during Soviet regime, interfering in the freedom of owners and establishing expense control in the compensation model is particularly ambiguous. Conditions of the signed agreements demonstrate that the state actively interferes with the process of establishing the purpose of the allocated amounts, as well as, in formulating day to day accounting-financial and action policy of the religious organizations, which is an unacceptable form of cooperation with religious organizations. It is without doubt that the amounts allocated by the budget must correspond with the public demands of transparency; however this must be achieved by establishing objective and fair criteria for damage compensation and by justifying it with legitimate public interest and not by establishing priorities of day to day activities of religious organizations and by control.

It must be noted, that financing of Georgian Orthodox Church, which in fact fits in the model of direct financing by the state, doesn’t include any reporting or monitoring mechanisms. Consequently, it is unclear why is the state using different attitude towards other entities in almost similar relations and why is it treating the dominant church in a singular manner.

To conclude the above-mentioned, EMC considers that the existing practice of religious funding (with regards to Orthodox Church, as well as, four other religious unions), must be fully reexamined and it must become consistent with the constitutional principles of secularism and discrimination. In this regard, it is especially important for the parliament to work in the conditions of wider public discussions to create unified policy and implement effective parliamentary control over the processes.

[1] It must be noted that EMC has appealed to the Constitutional Court of Georgia regarding the inconsistency of the Decree of 27, 2014 with the constitutional principle of discrimination and secularism. It is available at:


[2] Please see the joint research prepared by Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) and the Institute for Tolerance and Diversity (TDI) – Practices of funding religious organizations by the Central and Local administrations, 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1DizbuJ

[3] see. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CwCVc6TroE#t=388;

http://news.ge/ge/news/story/43030-khelisuflebas-sruliad-saqartvelos-muslimta-sammartvelos-saqmianobashi-charevas-tkhoven ;

[4] http://pia.ge/show_news.php?id=28690&lang=geo;



Footnote and Bibliography

[1] აღსანიშნავია, რომ ადამიანის უფლებების სწავლებისა და მონიტორინგის ცენტრს (EMC) საქართველოს საკონსტიტუციო სასამართლოში წარდგენილი აქვს კონსტიტუციური სარჩელი, რომელშიც ის 2014 წლის 27 იანვრის დადგენილების დისკრიმინაციულობასა და სეკულარიზმის კონსტიტუციურ პრინციპთან წინააღმდეგობრივობაზე დავობს. ხელმისაწვდომია:


[2] იხ. ადამიანის უფლებების სწავლებისა და მონიტორინგის ცენტრისა (EMC) და ტოლერანტობისა და მრავალფეროვნების ინსტიტუტის (TDI) მიერ მომზადებული ერთობლივი კვლევა - ცენტრალური და ადგილობრივი ხელისუფლების მიერ რელიგიური ორგანიზაციების დაფინანსების პრაქტიკა, 2014,  ხელმისაწვდომია: http://bit.ly/1DizbuJ

[3] იხ. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CwCVc6TroE#t=388;

http://news.ge/ge/news/story/43030-khelisuflebas-sruliad-saqartvelos-muslimta-sammartvelos-saqmianobashi-charevas-tkhoven ;

[4] http://pia.ge/show_news.php?id=28690&lang=geo;



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