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  • Mention of religious affiliation on identity cards

The mention of religion on Greek identity cards dates back to the law of 1945, according to which identity cards are mandatory and must include the holder’s name, their father’s and spouse’s names, place and date of birth, profession, signature, nationality, fingerprints and religion. This policy continued until 1985, when the socialist government introduced law 1599/1986 for the optional mention of religion on identity cards.
The Church, then headed by Archbishop Seraphim, organised an opposition and protest campaign to keep the mention of religion on identity cards.
In 1995, the signing of the Schengen Agreement on the free circulation of people in the European Union eliminated customs controls and passport checks were replaced by identity card checks. Greece signed this agreement in 1997 and had to issue new bilingual identity cards.
Criticized by the European Parliament who disapproved the mandatory mention of religion, the socialist government, and especially a legal commission on the defence of personal information, introduced a law on the protection of personal information in 1997. Greek citizens were no longer required to provide personal information such as profession, religion, fingerprints and marital status on their identity cards. This law was not applied until 2000, when the Minister of Justice announced his intention of issuing new identity cards that do not mention religion.
To force the government into reconsidering its decision, the Archbishop of the Church of Greece, Christodoulos, organised a national protest campaign, as well as a referendum through which he brought together nearly 3 million signatures demanding the voluntary mention of religion.
The President of Greece answered by confirming that it was out of the question to change legislation and the mention of religion was finally eliminated from identity cards.
Each government in power between 1986 and 2002 was able to exercise its own influence on this question and the conflict was, except for a few exceptions, both partisan and political.

  • Other issues

- The conflict between the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate on administrative issues.
- The evolution of religion classes into history of religion classes.
- The political role and political interventions of Archbishop Christodoulos on several political and social issues.
- The normalisation of the legal status of the Catholic Church.
- Suppression or modification of the law on proselytism.

D 4 September 2002    ALina Molokotos-Liederman

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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