There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom. The government continued to provide financial support to religious organizations with second-tier registration and to sponsor religiously oriented cultural activities. The government continued efforts to resolve religious communal property restitution problems.
Religious organizations received approximately 1.4 billion Czech crowns ($70 million) from the government. Funds were divided proportionally among the 17 religious organizations that have second-tier registration and have elected to receive state assistance based on the number of clergy in each. Of this sum, approximately 1.3 billion Czech crowns ($65 million) went to pay the salaries of clergy. The rest went to church administration and maintenance of church property.
The application for first-tier registration of the Hussite Church, originally filed in July 2010, was rejected in October. The decision was based on the administrative requirement that all applications include signatures from 300 members of the religious organization. After repeated requests, the Hussite Church did not provide this information. A new application filed by the Hussite Church in November was under consideration at year’s end. The Ministry of Culture also was considering applications from the Beer Church, Church of Faith, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church.
Missionaries must obtain a long-term residence and work permit if they intend to remain longer than 90 days. There is no special visa category for religious workers; foreign missionaries and clergy are required to meet the conditions for a standard work permit. Missionaries from EU member states are not required to have permits.
Of the 32 registered religious organizations, nine have permission from the Ministry of Culture to teach religion in state schools. According to the ministry, although religious instruction is optional in public schools, school directors must introduce religious education choices if there are at least seven students in one class of the same religious group who request such instruction.
The government continued its effort to resolve religious communal property restitution problems. Jewish claims dated to the period of the Nazi occupation during World War II, while Roman Catholic authorities pressed claims for properties that were seized under the former Communist regime. Although most Roman Catholic churches, parishes, and monasteries were returned in the 1990s, land and forests remained in state possession.
During the year, the cabinet approved a bill regarding religious properties still in state hands. Under the agreement, the government is to return lands worth 75 billion Czech crowns ($4.5 billion) and pay 59 billion Czech crowns ($3.5 billion) in financial restitution for lands that cannot be returned. The government is to pay out the financial portion of the restitution over 17 years, during which it is to gradually phase out direct state support to religious organizations. The bill must still be approved by parliament and signed by the president.
The government has returned nearly all of the state-owned properties claimed by the Federation of Jewish Communities. Two lawsuits in Brno concerning properties in the possession of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs were pending at year’s end. The law of 2000 also enables the government to return artworks to the Jewish community, as well as to individual Jewish claimants.
The Endowment Fund for Holocaust Victims, which received 300 million Czech crowns ($15 million) from the state in 2001, continued to assist in the preservation of communal property, educational programs, and community welfare. From these assets, the fund supported numerous social welfare projects. For example, the fund contributed five million Czech crowns ($250,000) to 17 institutions providing health care for approximately 600 Holocaust survivors.
The Ministry of Interior continued to counter right-wing groups espousing anti-Semitic views by monitoring their activities, increasing cooperation with police from neighboring countries, and shutting down unauthorized rallies. In general, public expressions of anti-Semitism were rare, and authorities vigorously pursued Holocaust-denial investigations and prosecutions.
Throughout the summer and fall, leading government officials, local NGOs, and Jewish groups called for the resignation of Ladislav Batora, head of the Ministry of Education’s personnel department. Batora had links to anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, racist, and far-right organizations.
The Ministry of Culture sponsored religiously oriented cultural activities through a grant program. The ministry provided 3.2 million Czech crowns ($160,000).