Monday, June 06, 2011

Czech Government Proposes Settlement For Nationalized Church Property

In the Czech Republic, another attempt is being made to settle claims of churches for property that was nationalized after the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948.  An agreement between a government committee and religious orders reached in 2007 (see prior posting) did not obtain sufficient votes in Parliament for its approval. According to the Prague Daily Monitor last week, now a government commission has proposed that 56% of the churches' former property (mainly fields, forests and ponds) be returned to them, and that they be compensated the equivalent of $3.55 billion (US) over periods of up to 30 years for the remaining land. These figures may be adjusted as it is determined what to do with property now in military areas.

In an article last Friday, the Prague Daily Monitor reported additionally that the Defense Ministry, as part of a plan to reduce the number of military training areas, is willing to return additional forest land plus 5 church buildings on property now held by the military. This would reduce the compensation for remaining lands to $3.43 billion. These proposals will become the basis of negotiations with the Czech Ecumenical Council of Churches. The goal of the settlement is to make churches financially independent. Currently they receive the equivalent of  $9 million (US) from the government each year. The opposition Social Democratic Party has criticized the proposed settlement. It wants the settlement funds to go to a special foundation created by the government and managed by the churches.