ATHENS, Greece – On April 9th, the Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes (YSEE), a religious organization working to restore the indigenous religion of Greece, put out a statement saying Greek polytheism has received legal status in Greece. Prior to this, Greek Pagans did not have religious freedoms such as the ability to buy land to create houses of worship nor could Pagan clergy perform marriage ceremonies.
Yesterday the Secretary of the Supreme council of Ethnic Hellenes (YSEE) announced that after more than twenty years of struggle, the Greek state has finally recognized the Hellenic Religion as a ‘Known Religion’ according to paragraph 17 – the only form of recognition for a religion in Greece. The mentioned paragraph includes the permission to build a temple as well as the right of public exercise of any recognized religion.
The recognition of Hellenic Religion as a ‘Known Religion’ is only the first step towards a general recognition of Hellenism. Now the YSEE at Athens is still waiting for recognition as a religious statutory body in Greece. The Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes will approach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if the state leaves them no other choice, said its Secretary.
Unlike the United States, Greece does not have a blanket freedom of religion law built into its legal system. It is instead governed by the Organization of the Legal Forms of Religious Communities and their Organizations in Greece. As of now, only six religions outside the Greek Orthodox faith are recognized as ‘known religions.’ And, even those practices that achieve this status often face an uphill battle in exercising their rights. For example, Muslims in Athens have fought for over 10 years to build a mosque, and have so far been unsuccessful.
The recognition of the Greek religion came after it was rejected in 2015. According to the YSEE, the rejection demonstrated that the Greek government, “…has yet to get rid of its byzantine and medieval whims and […] unable to respect with dignity its own laws.”
“It has rejected by intermediate on of its court of First Instance the motion signed by hundreds of Ethnikoi Hellenes to obtain recognition as a statutory corporation of religious character for their ancestral, indigenous, and historically continuous to our day despite cruel persecutions by Christianity.”
YSEE is currently registered as a non-profit organization and, as explained on its website, has been on the front lines in the on-going battle for religious community recognition.
The Wild Hunt spoke with Mr. Vlassis Rassias, the General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes, about what it means for the Ethnic Hellenic Pagans in Greece and what the next steps are in achieving religious right in Greece.
TWH: If this is the first step towards a general recognition of Hellenism, what is the next step?
Vlassis Rassias: This was recognition of our Religion as such, by…