The Bishop of Morphou, Neophytos, has not committed a criminal offence with his anti-gay comments, the attorney-general’s office said on Monday.
The case file submitted to the AG’s office by police was returned on Monday saying that on the basis of the evidence, there was no criminal offence.
“Although the bishop’s individual references are worthy of criticism and possibly disagreement, the whole context of his statements and the explanations he gave on the actual meaning of words and phrases, which he used to refer to the positions of the church, are not equivalent to an attempt to incite violence or hatred because of sexual orientation or gender identity, nor can they be described as hate speech within the meaning of the law,” the statement said.
The statements, it added, were made in the context of an open dialogue on spirituality where questions were asked on all subjects and answers were provided from the podium.
However, it added, “spiritual leaders should avoid clumsy and unintelligible expression”. Words or phrases that may have interpretations other than those expressed by the church on particularly sensitive issues such as homosexuality, or which may receive different interpretations or misinterpretations, need not be directly accepted by an audience.
The probe against Morphou Bishop Neophytos was launched after he made the derogatory comments about gays earlier this year.
The bishop said during a public talk that gay men give off a nasty smell and that homosexuality was transferred to a foetus when a pregnant woman has anal sex and enjoys it.
Accept LGBTI Cyprus said later on Monday it was concerned that the bishop was cleared of ‘hate speech’ by the attorney-general’s office.
The group believes the bishop violated Article 99Α(1) of the criminal code, which makes it a crime to engage in unacceptable behaviour and violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Under the 2015 amendment to the law, depending on the offence, offenders could face up to three years in jail or a fine of up to €5,000, or both.
“Since 2015 this law had never been implemented and hate speech has occurred on several occasions,” Accept said, adding that it had previously filed complaints under the law.
“Accept – Cyprus LGBTI, in addition to its strong frustration, also expresses its strong concern about the malfunction of this law,” it said.
If there were consequences, blame should fall on the on the shoulders of the competent authorities, it added.
The group, which said it was considering its options, called for a dialogue on the functionality of the law, so that its interpretation did not fall to just one person such as the attorney-general.