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General overview

Legal status of religious bodies, levels of their legal recognition

The registration of the religious communities has to be carried out by the competent body, i.e. by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. Act No. 3/2002 Sb. made it possible for a much (...)

The registration of the religious communities has to be carried out by the competent body, i.e. by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.
Act No. 3/2002 Sb. made it possible for a much wider range of religious communities to gain registration by a reduction of the condition as to size from 10,000 adult believers to 300 adult believers. Newly registered religious communities acquire their basic legal personality, certain tax advantages and the right to found derived legal persons.
Religious communities, which were registered before Act No. 3/2002 Sb. came into force, could enjoy so called “special rights”, if they enjoyed them before. Newly registered religious communities can acquire “special rights” ten years after their registration if they fulfil additional prerequisites of the law: the number of adult members must be at least equal to 0,1 % of the residents of the Czech Republic, having published an annual financial report during the last ten years, and having duly fulfilled obligations.

Special rights can include, according to the Act No. 3/2002 Sb.:
- teaching religion in public schools and founding Church schools,
- pastoral care in prisons and the army,
- the right to celebrate marriages with civil effects,
- to maintain confessional confidentiality, if the religious community proves that such confidentiality has been practised for at least fifty years.

Registered religious communities as well as religious communities registered with special rights can found “unions of churches and religious societies”. These unions as such are registered in a special register of the Ministry of Culture. They enjoy a legal personality, but can not found derived legal persons.

Act No. 372/2011 Sb., on Health Care Services and Conditions for Providing Them, stipulates that a patient is entitled to the provision of spiritual care by any registered religious community. The patient may not be denied a visit by a minister, should their life be in danger or if facing serious risk to health.

D 14 September 2016    AJiří Rajmund Tretera AZáboj Horák

Legal sources

The most important constitutional provisions in Czech religious law are Articles 15 and 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms from 1991. The Charter is deemed as a second part of (...)

The most important constitutional provisions in Czech religious law are Articles 15 and 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms from 1991. The Charter is deemed as a second part of the Czech Constitution.
Article 15(1) of the Charter states explicitly that everybody has the right to change his or her religion or faith, or to have no religious beliefs.
Article 16(1) concerns the right to profess freely a personal religion or faith, alone or jointly with others, through religious services, instruction, religious acts, or religious rituals. Religious freedom is guaranteed to everyone.
Article 16(2) of the Charter refers to the collective dimension of religious freedom. Religious communities have freedom to administer their own affairs: in particular constitute their organisations, appoint their clergy, and establish religious orders and other church institutions independently of the institutions of the state.

According to the Constitution of the Czech Republic of 1993 international agreements, the ratification of which has been approved by Parliament and which are binding on the Czech Republic, constitute a part of the Czech legal order; should an international agreement make a provision contrary to Czech law, the international agreement is to be applied.
There are following ratified international agreements: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, European Convention on Human Rights of 1950, and others.
An international agreement between the Czech Republic and the Apostolic See was signed in July 2002, but the House of Deputies of the Parliament voted by 110 votes to 90 not to recommend its ratification. The proposal for such a recommendation may be resubmitted at a more favourable time.

The regulatory framework of Czech religious law is based on Act No. 3/2002 Sb. (Sb. = Sbírka zákonů, Collection of Laws of the Czech Republic) on Freedom of Religious Expressions and the Position of Churches and Religious Societies (Act on Churches and Religious Societies). Some provisions of the Act were struck down by the Czech Constitutional Court in 2002. The Act was several times amended.

Another important legal act is Act No. 428/2012 Sb. on Property Settlement with Churches and Religious Societies, and to Amend Certain Other Laws. The act came into force on 1 January 2013. The Act combines restitution in kind of property appropriated from religious communities from 25 February 1948 until the end of 1989, and financial compensation for non-restored property. It gradually cancels the paying of stipends to the clergy by the State, thereby introducing the financial independence of religious communities.

There are also several treaties between the state and other corporations of public law and religious communities at an internal level in present Czech law:
a. The Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic, the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic, and the Czech Bishops’ Conference (1998, amended in 2012),
b. The Agreements on Pastoral Service in Prisons between the Prison Administration of the Czech Republic, the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic, and the Czech Bishops’ Conference (the last one is from 2013),
c. The Agreement on Cooperation between public Czech Radio, the Czech Bishops’ Conference, and the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic (1999),
d. The Agreement between the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic, the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic, and the Czech Bishops’ Conference on participation of the clergy in providing post-traumatic interventional care (2011). This agreement concerns officers of police, firemen, employees of the Police and the Ministry of Interior, members of their families, and victims of criminal offences and catastrophes (in force until 2014),
e. The Agreement on Spiritual Care in Hospitals between the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic, the Czech Bishops’ Conference and the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic (2019).

A new development on the field of religion law concerns the Czech Police: the Police President issued an order on providing spiritual service on 7 June 2019.

D 2 September 2019    AJiří Rajmund Tretera AZáboj Horák

Registered religious communities in the Czech Republic

There are 41 religious communities registered in the Czech Republic.
21 registered religious communities were registered before the effect of Act No. 3/2002 Sb.: 1. Roman Catholic Church 2. (...)

There are 41 religious communities registered in the Czech Republic.

21 registered religious communities were registered before the effect of Act No. 3/2002 Sb.:
1. Roman Catholic Church
2. Greek Catholic Church
3. Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren
4. Czechoslovak Hussite Church
5. Silesian Evangelical Church A. C.
6. Evangelical Church A. C. in the Czech Republic (before 1993: Slovak Evangelical Church A. C.
7. Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands
8. Church of Brethren (Evangelical Congregationalists)
9. Unity of the Brethren (Evangelical Church of Herrnhut)
10. Evangelical Methodist Church
11. Apostolic Church (Pentecostals)
12. Unity of Brethren Baptists
13. Old Catholic Church
14. Seventh-Day Adventists Church
15. Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic
16. Christian Congregations (original founder: Nelson Darby, Ireland)
17. Religious Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses
18. Lutheran Evangelical Church A. C. in the Czech Republic
19. New Apostolic Church (Irvingism)
20. Religious Society of Czech Unitarians
21. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

20 religious communities registered after the effect of Act No. 3/2002 Sb. (the year of registration is given after the name of each community):
22. Christian Fellowship Church (Pentecostals), 2002
23. Christian Community in the Czech Republic (founders Rittelmeyer, Steiner), 2002
24. Hare Krishna Movement, 2002
25. Czech Hindu Religious Society, 2002
26. Centre of Islamic Communities, 2004
27. Russian Orthodox Church (Podvorje of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia), 2006
28. Diamond Way Buddhism Karma Kagjü, 2007
29. Vishva Nirmala Dharma, 2007
30. Church of the Living God, 2007
31. Church of New Hope, 2009
32. Word of Life Church, 2010
33. Church of Faith, 2012
34. Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator (Armenians), 2013
35. Salvation Army, 2013
36. New Life Church, 2013
37. Church of Oasis, 2014
38. Community of Josef Zezulka, 2014
39. Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, 2018
40. Theravada Buddhism, 2018
41. Community of Baptist Congregations, 2019.

Unions of religious communities:
1. The Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic
2. Military Spiritual Service

Bibliography:
- HORÁK, Záboj, "République tchèque", in Dictionnaire du Droit des Religions, MESSNER, Francis (dir.). Paris: CNRS Editions, 2011, p. 620-625.
- TRETERA, Jiří Rajmund, HORÁK, Záboj, “State and Church in the Czech Republic”, in ROBBERS Gerhard (ed.), State and Church in the European Union, Third ed., Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2019, p. 69-86.
- TRETERA, Jiří Rajmund, HORÁK, Záboj, Religion and Law in the Czech Republic, 2nd edition. Alphen aan den Rijn: Wolters Kluwer, 2017.

Internet pages:
Department of Churches of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.

D 2 September 2019    AJiří Rajmund Tretera AZáboj Horák

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