There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom. The government continued to provide financial support to religious groups with second-tier registration and to sponsor religiously oriented cultural activities. The government passed legislation to resolve religious communal property restitution problems.
Religious groups received approximately 1.4 billion Czech crowns ($70 million) from the government. The government divided these funds proportionally among the 17 religious groups that have second-tier registration and have elected to receive state assistance based on the number of clergy in each group. Approximately 1.3 billion crowns ($65 million) was used to pay clergy salaries; churches directed the remainder toward church administration and the maintenance of church property.
The Hussite Church application for first-tier registration, originally filed in July 2010, rejected in October 2011, and resubmitted in November 2011, remained pending at year’s end. Also pending at the Ministry of Culture were applications from the Ukrainian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church, Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, Religious Association Unity of St. Kliment, and the Salvation Army. The Beer Church withdrew its application, filed in 2011. The government registered the Church of Faith in May.
The government continued to address religious communal property restitution problems. Jewish claims dated to the period of the Nazi occupation during World War II while Roman Catholic authorities and other religious groups pressed claims for properties seized under the Communist regime. Although the government returned most Roman Catholic churches, parishes, and monasteries in the 1990s, land and forests remained in state possession.
In November parliament passed legislation covering religious properties still in state hands. The legislation authorizes the government to return lands worth 75 billion crowns ($3.75 billion) and pay 59 billion crowns ($2.95 billion) in financial restitution for lands that cannot be returned, to be paid over 17 years to 17 separate religious institutions. The law allocates slightly more than 79 percent of the financial compensation to the Roman Catholic Church, and contains provisions for phasing out direct state support to religious groups over the 17-year period.
The government returned nearly all of the state-owned properties claimed by the Federation of Jewish Communities. The Brno Jewish community reclaimed a disputed property previously under the possession of the Ministry of Interior after settlement of a lawsuit. Another lawsuit in Brno concerning a property in the possession of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs was pending at year’s end.
The Endowment Fund for Holocaust Victims, which received 300 million crowns ($15 million) from the state in 2001, continued to support the preservation of communal property, educational programs, and community welfare. The fund contributed five million crowns ($250,000) to 17 institutions providing health care for approximately 600 Holocaust survivors.
Local officials continued to challenge plans by small Muslim communities in Hradec Kralove and Brno to establish or expand mosques. The Islamic Foundation of Brno reported that local officials from the Christian Democratic Party publicly opposed the organization’s planned expansion. The regional government provided funds to a group called Anti-Mosque in Hradec Kralove in 2011, but reportedly did not provide further funding in 2012.
The Ministry of Culture declined to approve the December 2011 request by the chairman of the Young Christian Democrats of Brno to cancel the registration of the Center of Muslim Communities, after the release of a video showing a member of the Muslim community citing the Quran and calling for violence against Jews. The ministry stated that only one person (the person shouting in the video) issued the call for violence, not the whole center. After the ministry’s decision, police took no action against the individual in the video because the statute of limitations had expired.
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.
The Ministry of Culture provided 2.8 million crowns ($140,000) in grants for religiously oriented cultural activities during the year.
In May the government approved the 2012 Concept to Fight Extremism, which stressed the importance of implementing preventive measures, including specialized training for teachers and police. The concept paper included recommendations for the Ministry of Education on training educators how to properly teach students about the Holocaust and ensure texts are free of anti-Semitic and other extremist views.