Sunday, September 24, 2023

European court rules that Greek Orthodox prelate’s comments about homosexuals are not protected free expression

Cypriot bishop faces hate speech inquiry over homophobic remarks | Cyprus |  The Guardian

In Lenis v. Greece, (ECHR, Aug. 31, 2023), the European Court of Human Rights declared inadmissible an application filed by a former Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church who contended that his Freedom of Expression protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights was infringed when he was convicted by Greek courts of public incitement to violence or hatred against people because of their sexual orientation.  

The European Court pointed out that:

Speech that is incompatible with the values proclaimed and guaranteed by the Convention is not protected by Article 10 by virtue of Article 17 of the Convention.... The decisive points when assessing whether statements, verbal or non-verbal, are removed from the protection of Article 10 by Article 17 are whether the statements are directed against the Convention’s underlying values.... 

At issue was a homophobic article that the Metropolitan posted on his personal blog as Parliament was about to debate civil unions for same-sex couples. He titled the article "The Scum of Society Have Reared Their Heads! Let's Be Honest! Spit on Them". 

The Court said in part:

54.  ... [C]riticism of certain lifestyles on moral or religious grounds is not in itself exempt from protection under Article 10 of the Convention. However, when the impugned remarks go as far as denying LGBTI people their human nature, as in the present case, and are coupled with incitement to violence, then engagement of Article 17 of the Convention should be considered.

55.  ... [T]aking account firstly of the nature of the disputed article, which included incitement to violence and dehumanising hate speech ...; secondly, of the applicant’s position as a senior official of the Church who could influence many people; thirdly, of the fact that the views expressed in the article were disseminated to a wide audience through the Internet; and, fourthly, of the fact that they related directly to an issue which is of high importance in modern European society – protection of people’s dignity and human value irrespective of their sexual orientation – the applicant’s complaint does not, in the light of Article 17 of the Convention, attract the protection afforded by Article 10.