- July 2012 : Adopting a bill on compensation for goods confiscated from churches
In the night of 13-14 July 2012, Czech Ministers passed a law that provides for returning 56% of the property confiscated under the Communist regime (buildings, land, ponds and forests) to 17 recognised churches, representing a total value of 75 billion crowns (2.98 billion euros).
In parallel, the state will pay nearly 59 billion crowns (2.35 billion euros) to churches in compensation for property that can no longer be returned today, a payment which is to be spread over a period of 30 years.
A 17 year transition period is provided for, during which the state will continue to pay churches the equivalent of the current annual grant (approximately 52 million euros allocated to paying clergy salaries), thereafter reduced by 5% each year.
The law must still be voted on by the senate, where it risks being rejected by the parliamentary opposition.
For more information, see the article on the Radio Prague website.
- November 2012 : Final vote on restitution of church property
After being rejected by the Senate, on 8 November 2012 the Lower House of Parliament approved once again the draft law on the restitution of property to churches and religious communities (see July 2012 above) by 102 votes to 200.
The text of the law was submitted to the President of the Republic, Václav Klaus, who, despite his reservations, decided not to use his veto.
The law will come into force in 2013.
- October 2012 : Bill on Property Settlement between the State and Churches and Religious Societies
The Bill on Property Settlement between the State and Churches and religious societies is presently at the top of the political and legal debate. The Bill aims at the reparation of harms done by the communist regime to the properties of churches or religious societies between 25th February 1948 and the end of 1989. It also takes into account the absence of State subsidies provided for the salaries of spiritual ministers during this period of time. The money involved in the Bill is meant as a compensation for the non-restored properties of the religious communities expropriated at the time of the Communist regime.
The Bill was prepared by the Government of the Czech Republic in accordance with the Policy Statement from the Government of the Czech Republic of 4th August 2010. The Policy Statement was based on a political agreement three political parties actually involved in the contemporary coalition government. The particular provision reads : “The government’s aim is to resolve as soon as possible the question of a settlement between the State and the churches and religious societies, in order to make right and to allow the churches and religious societies to fulfil their functions independently of the State.”
17 registered churches and religious societies were consulted about this Bill. It was then submitted to the Parliament of the Czech Republic in January 2012.
On 14th July 2012 the House of Deputies (Lower House) of the Czech Parliament adopted the Bill by a majority of 93 votes out of the total number of 182 present deputies. The parliamentary discussion revealed that the left-wing parliamentary opposition (communists and social democrats) is strictly opposed to the Bill. The opposition argues mostly on the unsuitability of large expenses in the current time of economic crisis.
On 15th August 2012, the Senate (Upper House), along with the social democratic majority, refused the Bill by votes of 43 senators from the total number of 77 present senators.
The Bill returns now to the House of Deputies, according to the Constitution. The Senate’s veto could be outvoted by the qualified majority of the House of Deputies members, i.e. majority of all members of the House. The House of Deputies having 200 members, the qualified majority is 101 members.