There will be no criminal case against Morphou Bishop Neophytos in connection with his controversial comments over homosexuality, after the attorney general said the police file he reviewed over the case did not establish a crime.
Attorney General Costas Clerides concurred with police investigators on Monday, essentially closing the file on Neophytos who was being investigated for possible hate crimes following statements he had made about homosexuality. Last month, the file had been handed over to the attorney general based on a request by his Legal Department, while information gathered by police investigators pointed to no case against the bishop.
“Despite the fact that single references by the Bishop during a Q&A session could be subjected to criticism and draw disagreement, his statements on the whole had nothing to do with homosexuality,” Clerides said.
The attorney general went on to add that the statements in question, along with an explanation the bishop had given during his deposition to investigators on the actual meaning of his words and verbiage, “did not amount to an attempt to incite hate or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Clerides clarified the controversial statements did not meet the legal definition of hate speech under current law. However, he also called on public figures and spiritual leaders to be more careful with their words as they can have multiple meanings and alternative interpretations.
The statements along with the bishop's explanation on the actual verbiage 'did not amount to an attempt to incite hate or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity'
It is understood that Clerides has accepted the report “as is” and handed it over back to police with no further instructions. The attorney general legally had two other options to consider last week, including directing police to further investigate or allow an opportunity to the initial informant to challenge the finding.
The initial informant in this case was Costas Gavrielides, an advisor to the President on issues of diversity and acceptance, who had called on the attorney general to investigate the bishop’s remarks.
Gavrielides had also drawn comments from Clerides last month when the presidential advisor called for legislation that would make legal action easier against those who “poison society and a specific group of people.” He was essentially calling for new laws where legal action would be possible without relying on the judgment of one individual, namely the attorney general.
Clerides, who had already given instructions to police to proceed with a probe into allegations of any criminal offence, issued a statement saying “it would have been better for the presidential advisor to know the basic provisions of the Constitution and respect its Institutions before making such similar statements.”
Neophytos controversial statements had included comments on abortion and homosexuality, with the bishop saying “gayness” was a trait transmitted during anal sex, adding that a man of God could spot gay men by a stench emanating from their bodies.
The Morphou diocese issued a statement saying that the bishop’s comments were taken out of context, while Neophytos insisted that his remarks did not deviate from the teachings and positions of the church.