The Roman Catholic Church will wait for a Senate decision on taxing
compensation paid out to churches in restitution before making a decision
on how to proceed, Cardinal Dominik Duka said after a meeting of the Czech
Bishops’ Conference. The head of the Catholic Church in the Czech
Republic said it would coordinate its response with other churches and the
Federation of Jewish Communities.
The Chamber of Deputies last week approved a Communist Party proposal to tax the compensation received by churches in lieu of properties seized under the previous regime.
Cardinal Duka described the vote as a black comedy directed by the Communists, adding that compensation was never taxed. The Senate is regarded as likely to reject the bill.
Prague Bishop Václav Malý has sent an open letter to the speakers of the
lower house of Parliament and the Senate to protest against an amendment
taxing church restitutions approved by the lower chamber last week. Bishop
Malý says in the letter that the minority government is paying the price
for Communist Party support, and argues that the bill demonstrates the
growing arrogance and unscrupulous practices of those in power.
The amendment, which was approved in the lower house last Wednesday, would tax the roughly 59 billion crowns which the state is paying out in phases as compensation for property which the state cannot return.
Money from church restitution taxes could be used to fund repairs of
cultural monuments, President Miloš Zeman said in a televised interview on
Thursday. He said he would propose this to Minister of Culture Antonín
Staněk (Social Democrats).
Czech MPs on Wednesday approved a tax on the billions in annual payments the state is making to the country’s 16 churches and a Jewish organisation to compensate for assets seized by the Communist regime.
Critics say the tax – proposed by the Communists and supported by the minority ANO-Social Democrat government – is unconstitutional.
If approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Zeman, the state stands to recover about 380 million crowns annually from the roughly 2 billion crowns it now transfers to the religious groups under bilateral agreements.
The Catholic Church, the largest single denomination with over 1 million followers, is slated to receive about 80 percent of the compensation package.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial
Communist proposal to tax churches on monies they receive in line with a
property restitution law enacted in 2012. The proposal will now go to the
Senate for further debate.
Opponents of the proposal argue that it is unjust to tax money paid in to the churches in compensation for properties confiscated by the Communist regime. They argue it is akin to punishing the victim of a theft and also unconstitutional, as in their view it violates earlier treaties.
The coalition government comprised of the ANO and Social Democrat parties backed the proposal by the Communists, who had threated to withdraw their tolerance of the minority government if they had rejected it.
According to the Communists, the state stands to recover about 380 million crowns annually from the roughly 2 billion crowns it now transfers to 16 churches under bilateral agreements.
In total, the churches should receive 75 billion crowns worth of land and property confiscated by the Communist regime and get 59 billion crowns worth of compensation money for the rest, to be paid out over a 30-year period.
Cardinal Dominik Duka, the archbishop of Prague, has called the incoming
ANO-Social Democrat coalition government’s plans to tax restituted church
property "scandalous" and pledged to sue in court to prevent it
Under a 2012 agreement on compensating churches for property seized by the Communists, over a period of 30 years the churches would receive 75 billion crowns worth of land and property and nearly 60 billion crowns in compensation.
The Communists have conditioned their support for the minority coalition government of Prime Minister Andrei Babiš, which faces a confidence vote on July 11, on its support for the tax.
As efforts to form a new minority coalition government of the ANO party and the Social Democrats tolerated by the Communists reach their final stage, the Communist Party has been milking the situation to its best advantage. After rocking the boat over the country’s foreign missions, the party now says that unless its bill on taxing Church restitutions passes through the lower house the two parties can look for support elsewhere.
The head of the Communists’ deputies group, Pavel Kováčik, says the
party will only support a mooted ANO-Social Democrats minority coalition if
financial compensation paid to churches for property seized during the
communist era is taxed. The Communists are currently discussing a deal with
ANO under which the former would support a government helmed by them in key
lower house votes.
Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, Mr. Kováčik said disagreements over foreign policy were one reason the Communists were not entering coalition with ANO but would only support such a government.
ANO, the Social Democrats and Freedom and Direct Democracy have previously given their backing to a Communist bill that would tax compensation paid to churches under a major restitution bill approved in 2012.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial Communist Party proposal for Church restitutions to be taxed. Although the bill was only passed in its first reading, support from the parties currently debating a coalition-in-the making has cast doubt on the future of a hard-won settlement between the country’s 16 churches and the State.
The European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg has backed the rights of a
noble family to renew proceedings to get their property back from a
confiscated stately home.
The court ruled Thursday that Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld had not been given the rights to a fair court case when Czech authorities refused to give her access to the 1947 ministry decision nationalising the Renaissance castle of Opočno.
Her previous appeal to the Czech Constitutional Court was turned down in November last year. The noble family argue that the furniture and valuable art collection at the castle was first confiscated by the Nazi Gestapo in 1942 and later by the Czechoslovak state.