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Legal Status of Churches and religious communities

Referring to churches, the Slovak Republic acknowledges their social and legal status as public and legal institutions sui generic, and co-operates with them according to the principles of partnership co-operation, this may be deduced from Government policy documents. It provides registered churches and religious communities with financial support in carrying out their charitable activities, and guarantees their legal status and functions in public life. It considers them subjects with irreplaceable moral potential, which is why it expects their help in the moral recovery of society. It sees churches as a significant part of cultural and social life of the State, and an important factor in the creation of a spiritual and moral consciousness in society. The State-Church relations may be defined as one of parity and co-operation.
Churches and religious communities are special types of legal entity taking advantage of special status (according to Section 24 of the Constitution) and other rights awarded to legal entities by the Constitution. Amongst these rights are privacy inviolability, property protection, the right to petition, the right to assembly, association, right to court and other legal protections.

The Act on freedom of religious beliefs and the status of churches and religious communities no. 308/1991 Col. considers a voluntary association of individuals of the same religious belief, in an organisation with its own structure, bodies, internal regulations and services, to be a church or religious community. They are legal entities and they can band together. They can create communities, orders, associations and similar institutions.
The State acknowledges only registered churches and religious communities. According to Act no. 192/1992 Col. on the registration of churches and religious communities, the registration body is the Ministry of Culture of the SR. A church or religious community may submit a proposal for registration if it can prove that at least 20,000 adult persons domiciled within the territory of the SR adhere to it. The acceptance or rejection of a church is conveyed by the Ministry of Culture within 10 days of its decision on registration or its cancellation, to the Statistics Office of the SR.
In addition to standard requirements, the proposal for registration must contain a declaration that a church or a religious community will fully respect the law and generally binding legal rules, and will show respect for other churches and religious communities and individuals without a confession. If the registration is rejected, the applicant body may submit an appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court of the SR within 60 days from the date of delivery of the decision.
According to the Act, the Ministry of Culture administers registration of churches and religious communities as well as legal entities that derive their legal personality from churches and religious communities, so long as they are not subject to the other registry or registration. If the church or religious community acts contrary to the Act or conditions of its registration, the Ministry of Culture shall proceed to cancel the registration. In such case, a possibility is available to apply to the Supreme Court of the SR against the decision.
Most of registered churches and religious communities do not meet the membership condition. They were registered under the provision of the Act that states that churches and religious communities already pursuing their activities, either under the Act or on the basis of State consent, on the day that the Act came into force, are considered registered. Most of the churches and religious communities in the SR work on the basis of deemed registration.
When the Act on freedom of religious belief and on the status of churches and religious communities came into effect, only one religious community was about to reach the required census. Religious community of Jehovah Witnesses registered in 1993. In 2001, it was followed by the New Apostolic Church which submitted relevant documents for state consent for the performance of its activities in the territory of the SR before the coming into effect of the Act no. 308/1991 Col. This church was registered in September 2001, and therefore was not included in the May 2001 Census.

As in May 2007 the following churches were registered: Apostolic Church in Slovakia, Brethren Unity of Baptists in the Slovak Republic, Church of Seventh Day Adventists, Brethren Church in the Slovak Republic, Czechoslovak Hussite Church in Slovakia, Protestant Church of Augsburg Confession in Slovakia, Protestant Methodist Church - Slovak area, Greek Catholic Church in the Slovak Republic, Christian Congregations in Slovakia, Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Apostolic Church in the Slovak Republic, Orthodox Church in Slovakia, Reformed Christian Church in Slovakia, Roman Catholic Church in Slovakia, Old Catholic Church, Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in the Slovak Republic, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bahá’í Society in the Slovak Republic.

Apart from other functions, churches and religious communities are free to provide spiritual and material services, teach religion, teach and educate their clergy and secular workers in their own schools and other facilities at theological universities and colleges, organise assemblies without prior announcement, own movable and immovable property and have other property and intangible rights, establish and run dedicated facilities, operate press, publishing, and printing plants, establish and operate their own cultural institutions and facilities, establish and operate their own health facilities and social service facilities, and take part in providing these services in state institutions in accordance with generally binding legal rules. They also have the right to send their representatives abroad and to receive representatives of churches and religious communities from abroad.
Through the Basic Treaty with the Holy See, and the Treaty with registered churches and religious communities, the Slovak Republic guarantees the inviolability of holy sites and temples designed for the performance of religious offices on the basis of canon law and the internal directives of churches and religious communities. An exception to the rule of the holy sites’ inviolability is allowed only in the case of impending danger of life, health or property.
Among other rights, worshippers are free to choose clerical or monastic status, and to decide to live in communities, orders and similar institutions.

Especially since 1989, Slovak society faces a phenomenon of new and non-traditional religious movements. That year, the former regime collapsed and new openness to the surrounding world brought about greater interest in spiritual issues on the one hand, and interest in Slovakia as a new ground for missionaries and propagators of new spiritual movements on the other. We can only estimate that more than 200 different new and non-traditional religious communities, movements and trends appeared on the Slovak spiritual scene. Those that present themselves most markedly are: the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Zazen International Slovakia, the Scientology Church, Slovak Community for Krishna Consciousness, and others based on Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism or on esoteric principles. At present, reaching the required number of members seems to be a stumbling block for establishing themselves as religious communities acknowledged by the state.

D 3 October 2012    AMichaela Moravcikova

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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