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17 May, 2000
The Greek government clarified on Tuesday that it hasn't received any decision by an influential independent authority regarding the divisive issue of excluding citizens' religious affiliation from new ID cards.
While the expected elimination of information related to Greek citizens' profession, spouse's name and fingerprints from new IDs barely raised eyebrows over the past few weeks, the proposal to also exclude religious affiliation has profusely irked the powerful Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece's leadership and several affiliated conservative religious groups.
A government spokesman on Monday, in fact, rejected a proposal by outspoken Greek Church Prelate Archbishop Christodoulos for a nationwide referendum on the issue, while on Tuesday spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the government will "study" the decision when it is conveyed to the government by the independent authority for the protection of personal data.
He added that the authority was legally established in 1997 and operates based on the country's laws, but does not "legislate", while any decision it makes based on law is "binding on all".
Finally, Reppas said a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Archbishop Christodoulos has not been scheduled. " all of the issues that arose with regard to the ID cards issue will be discussed through an expanded dialogue, while relevant circulars and regulatory decisions will then be issued."
In a related development on Tuesday, Christodoulos met with former ruling PASOK minister and constitutional law expert Evangelos Venizelos, as talks expectedly included the ID cards issue.
Afterwards, Venizelos - a deputy from the Thessaloniki area - simply noted that the Archbishop desires dialogue over the matter, whereas he reiterated the Church's standing demand that citizens retain the option of listing their religious affiliation on IDs.
The Greek Church's hierarchy has recently become more vocal in demanding that the country's Orthodox faithful, approximately 97 percent of the populace, retain the option of listing their religious denomination on the new ID cards - expected to replace the out-dated and hand-written cards issued at police stations for decades.
"The government is not dealing with such an issue (referendum)," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas replied on Monday, adding that "everyone has a right to freely express their opinions".
Source: Athens News Agency