Czech Churches Trade State Payroll for Properties Seized by Communists
Update (July 1): Against opposition from the country's atheists, the Czech Republic's Constitutional Court has affirmed a plan for the Czech government to pay Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish groups over US$3 billion over the next 30 years. The government also has been ordered to return church property seized during the country's communist era. In a comment for the Prague Post, Czech politician Jan Babor called the previous arrangement "against the spirit of our Constitution, because a democratic secular state should not tie itself to any church."
Churches in the Czech Republic will receive billions of dollars worth of seized property in return for finally becoming independent from the secular state's payroll.
Given that the Czech Republic is one of the most atheist nations on earth, the year-old proposal to return church properties seized by Communist leaders was fiercely contested. But the Czech parliament overcame previous vetoes and voted to approve the exchange, which will take place over the next 30 years.
CT previously summarized the proposal:
After 20 years of negotiations, the Czech government agreed to return some Communist-seized property to churches, reimburse them for the rest, pay church upkeep fees for a time, and phase out state funding of clergy salaries. The state will give back 56 percent of seized property and reimburse churches $3.49 billion over 30 years for the remainder. Eighty percent of funds and property will go to the Catholic Church; the rest will go to Protestant and Orthodox churches and Jewish synagogues.
Agence France-Presse noted the bill "comes as a relief to regions and municipalities that have had to care for the seized Church assets up to now, and as less of a relief for the austerity-minded government at a time the country has entered into recession."
Reuters noted "the churches are delighted with the agreement, hoping it will restore their fortunes and reverse their declining role in Czech society."
CT's past coverage of the Czech Republic includes protests against Czech law bringing religion under state control, as well as how Eastern Europe's evangelicals are restoring the church's vitality.