Nationwide Survey on separation of State and Church in Greece
Survey and Analysis of Results
Analysis by Dimitris Rapidis and Mario Schmidt
The separation of state and church in Greece is a deep-rooted, tabooed issue already since the 1980s and the rise of the Socialist Party in power. Since then, the discourse has weakened, but with the public interest remaining high.
The culmination of the struggle between the state and the church sparked in the beginning of the 2000s when the then PASOK government of Costas Simitis attempted to abolish religion from identity cards causing huge frustration in the church. Archbishop of Athens and Greece Christodoulos was furious against that proposal and the tension expanded in the society with massive manifestations organized in the country in favor of church's position.
1/2 Greeks in favor of separation - They want religion class to be optional
53% of respondents stated in favor on separation, with 69% of them in the age group 18-35, which is considered to be the least pious segment of the society. More than 40% see the role of the church in the financial crisis positively, with another 25% (1/4) having no clear opinion.
A similarly sensitive issue for the cleric is whether the religion class will be taught as mandatory or optional. 49% believe the class should be optional, with citizens between 18-35 putting it up to 65%. In middle-income urban areas people are in favor, with 43%, of the class being optional, while in rural areas 49% consider that the class should be mandatory. In the age scale of above 50 years old, 41% said that it has to be mandatory.
Involvement of church in public policy and the beloved Archbishop
47% of citizens consider public statements of clerics on issues of public and foreign policy as "uniting", whereas 38% consider them as "divisive". Archbishop Ieronymos, former teacher at primary and secondary school in Athens, gathers an overwhelming 67% of positive views. Considered as a strong asset for the church's appeal in the society, his role can be very constructive and he can certainly bridge different voices and perspectives both on the separation issue and on the broader role of the Greek church in the society.
As of the the decisiveness to bring up this issue, citizens believe that the SYIRIZA-ANEL coaltion government is determined to launch a debate on the issue, unlike previous governments that have left it untouched. The problem is that by constitutionally separating the state from the church, many benefits of the church will be abolished. This is mainly the reason for 82% to believe that after separation, the church could not financially survive.
The financial perspective
The topic can be considered as a priority for the government, not so for the ideological or political perspective of the Left, but mostly as an additional source of income for the public funds. Taxation of church and its assets can yield significant amounts that are necessary for the public budget. But here is where the leadership of the church and the executive conlcave can block talks before even start. The issue is very delicate and difficult to handle, but at the current stage the government is endorsed by the public.
October 16, 2015