Nea Smyrni, eight a.m. The slow, clear, melodic voice of the pupil (usually a boy—I wonder why?) can be heard coming out of the loudspeakers in our local primary school. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come.” “Our Father, who art in heaven” and so on.

Echinos, 26 km from Xanthi, eleven a.m. Coming out of the loudspeakers which have even been installed in the forest’s trees, we hear the thunderous, imposing, sing-song voice of the muezzin (always a man—no need to wonder why). “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah” and so on.

No, I’m not suggesting that Greece is a theocratic country, like Turkey or still more like Iran. I just ask myself, every morning when I hear the prayers coming from the school: “Really? In 2024.” And when I visited Echinos recently, I wondered: “Sharia, here. How can that be?”

The issue of the separation of Church and State is taboo in Greece. The former seem to shy away from it, because governments are afraid of losing the votes of the faithful, while the latter refuses to countenance the possibility—and with it the loss of its privileges. And yet the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition government attempted to do just that six years ago, labeling the measure a “rationalization of relations” between the two sides. The bill was soundly defeated, but Archbishop Ieronymos declared at the time that, while he ruled out the French model, he could accept the German one.

So what does the fundamental law passed in Germany in 1949 provide for? Simply this: that citizens indicate on their tax returns whether or not they want to pay taxes that go to funding religious purposes, such as clerical salaries. If a citizen opts out, they are exempt from the church tax but also barred from having a religious wedding or funeral. In Germany, the State is neutral, but endows the nation’s churches with a status that allows them to work toward the common good, and the faithful with “responsibilities toward God.”

In France, a 1905 law provides for the complete separation of Church and State and makes it clear that “the Republic neither recognizes, nor pays, nor subsidizes any religion.” The preamble to the French Constitution describes the Republic as “secular, indivisible, democratic and social,” while 1958 saw secularism acquire a constitutional dimension—just as the right to abortion did this week.

Of course, there are other approaches that fall between these two models: There is the English case, in which the Church plays a role in the organization of public offices, but the State exerts partial control over doctrine, worship and church leadership. The Italian case, where Catholicism is not a state religion, but its principles are recognized as an “historical heritage.” And the Spanish case, where the 1978 Constitution separates the Church from the State, but the informal ties between the two spheres remain strong.

From which we may conclude that, although the Catholic Church is traditionally very strong—or, precisely, because of that—, majority-Catholic countries have moved toward a clearer separation of Church and State than countries where the Orthodox church predominates. In the latter, politicians often outdo the priests in demonstrations of religiosity, either for electoral reasons or because they are afraid of what people will say. For example, when the new Cabinet is sworn in, it’s newsworthy when someone takes the civil rather than the religious oath, not the other way round.

Speaking on News247 a few months ago, the writer Stavros Zoumboulakis argued that Church and State were already separate in practice in Greece, citing civil marriage, civil funerals, cremation, children being named at the registry office, and the abolition of the religious oath in courts. “The swearing in of the Parliament before the Archbishop or the presence of political leaders at religious events like the Epiphany are not dictated by any law, they are customary,” he stressed. “They stem from the—in my opinion, exaggerated—belief that the Church is a powerful electoral mechanism.”

But even if the much-vaunted segregation really has taken place in society, important aspects of it still need to be regulated by legislation: How the clergy are paid and insured, for example. Or the Church’s tax obligations, the need to change its legal status to that of a Legal Entity under Private Law, the management of church property, and the presence of church symbols in state offices and services.

Hellenic Open University lecturer Alexandros Sakellariou wrote recently in TA NEA that the secularization process would remain incomplete without a revision of the Constitution, given that all the decisions of the Council of State on retaining Orthodoxy in schools have been based on the Constitution.

These changes will not lead to the victory of one side and the defeat of the other. Rather, they will be redemptive for both, as they will set limits and clarify responsibilities. And so, the next time the President of the Republic reads the Creed, she will do so because she wants to and not because the Holy Synod permits her to.