The former Soviet Republic of Georgia is planning a 'blasphemy bill' that will punish irreverence toward religion by law, reports the Guardian.
It will impose a fine of 100 lari (around £80) for "insults to religious feelings", with the figure doubled for a repeat offence. Desecrating a religious symbol could result in a fine of 1,000 lari (£800), about the figure of the average monthly salary.
While supporters argue that all religions will be protected under the new law, religious minorities fear that it will be used to guard the interests of the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church and will be used as a tool of discrimination against them. "This law is not going to protect anyone; at least not the minorities, and will be a powerful tool against freedom of speech," Rusudan Gotsiridze, a Baptist bishop, told Liberali.ge.
The Georgian ombudsman's office has also criticised the proposed law. "The current wording proposes the 'insult of religious feelings' as the sole criterion for limiting freedom of expression, which... subjects one individual to another's will and places the believers in a privileged position," said ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili.
The Georgian Orthodox Church is extremely powerful in the country and is associated with a pro-Russian and nationalist agenda. Its members have been associated with protests, sometimes violent, against Muslims and other religious minorities such as Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses and Jews.
According to the Tolerance and Diversity Institute, in September 2014 in Kobuleti in the Adjara region, local Orthodox Christians slaughtered a pig and nailed its head to the front door of a Muslim boarding school to protest its opening.