The Balkan Troll of the Month is an individual, a group of individuals or a media outlet that spreads hate on the internet based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or other diversity categories. The Balkan Troll is selected based on hate speech incidents identified across the Western Balkans region.
May Troll is the Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Joanikije Mićović, who spoke out in support of the recent initiative by the American Supreme Court, wishing to overturn abortion rights within the United States. The topic of abortion rights is one of much contestation within modern society whereby such narratives create further tension amongst the public.
Earlier this month, the Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Joanikije Mićović, came out and voiced his stance on the recent initiative of the American Supreme Court who is looking to overturn abortion rights within the United States. The recent debate surrounding abortion rights within the United States begun with a leaked document published by the media company, Politico, which revealed that the Supreme Court was looking to overturn abortion rights established in the 1973 federal constitutional protection. The immediate ruling would result in putting an end to the “half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights” alongside the right for each state to decide for themselves where they stand on abortion rights.
As a reaction to this political debate, this incident has received worldwide attention and global spotlight including a variety of reactions and debates. Amongst these was the Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Joanikije Mićović, who also spoke out. He argued that such a ruling would indeed be one of reason and conscience. The Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Joanikije Mićović, stated:
“Deliberately terminating a pregnancy at any stage of it is a terrible sin and is directly directed against God’s original biblical command to give birth. Man alienated from God want to legitimize what is against God’s law, it is, on the one hand, an expression of pernicious selfishness, and, on the other hand, an escape from life, a renunciation of love and God’s blessing. This sin leaves severe, long-lasting and traumatic consequences on the soul of the parents, and is only cured by sincere and long-lasting repentance. Because of what has been said, we accept every initiative for the protection of unborn children, especially this one of the Supreme Court of America, as humane, saving, and pleasing to God”.
Abortion rights is a topic and issue of much contestation within today’s society and globally; there are extremely polarised and fragmented opinions surrounding the topic of abortion. However, the fact remains that women and individuals in society have both the autonomy and right over their own bodies. Furthermore, an individual’s autonomy and personal rights should not be debated, discussed or decided by others. Within a secular state, the church is a separate institution and sphere of influence from the government which has no place in the debate and decision-making regarding women’s autonomy and abortion rights.
By spreading such narratives regarding abortion rights, especially by individuals such as the Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, who has a high authority and influence over the public’s opinion, such narratives can only result in further division within society. Montenegro is a country with a large Orthodox religious population, therefore, by having such a predominant religious figure spread such narratives and statements, this only further influences and affects the population’s opinion surrounding abortion rights. When discussing abortion and forming opinions surrounding the topic, this should be treated as a health care matter which is both private and separate from the sphere of religion.
This statement was picked up by various media portals and social media, further spreading it amongst the public in Montenegro. The media, instead of using their educational role and influence to open up the space for medical professionals, researchers and individuals with personal stories regarding abortion, only transmitted the statement of the Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, thus providing the church with the legitimacy to speak and comment on the legality of abortion rights.
Media should open up a debate over such important social issues, however this includes having opinion from various sides. Only transmitting the opinion of a (male) church representative, without hearing from those who are affected the most – a that is women- does not contribute to the democratic public debate.