Religion

10.548.000Population

78.868 Km2Area

Read the report
keyboard_arrow_down

homekeyboard_arrow_rightCzech Republic

Legal framework on freedom of religion and actual application

The question of religious freedom is not explicitly addressed in the constitution, but articles 15 and 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms guarantee freedom of religious conviction and grant fundamental rights to all citizens regardless of their faith or religion. Under the charter, individuals have the right to practise religion, alone or in community, in private or public, “through worship, teaching, practice, or observance” or to abstain from religious belief and activities. They may also to change their religion. The charter defines religious organisations, recognises their freedom to profess their faith (both publicly and privately) and to oversee their own affairs without undue state interference. According to the charter, religious freedom may be limited by law should there be “public safety and order, health and morals, or the rights and freedoms of others.”[1]

The government funds a number of religiously based cultural activities. These include the Night of Churches, the National Pilgrimage of St Wenceslaus, Culture against Anti-Semitism, Prayer for Home, the Apostolic Church’s Kristfest, and the Roman Catholic Church’s Romani Pilgrimage.

Incidents

The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and Federation of Jewish Communities stated that neo-Nazi groups, nationalist groups and Islamic groups, including the Muslim Union, had expressed anti-Semitic views. The MOI noted that groups such as the National Resistance and the Autonomous Nationalists held public gatherings and published blogs that had included anti-Semitic statements, Holocaust denial, the dissemination of neo-Nazi propaganda, and anti-Muslim sentiments.[2]

According to a report by Al Jazeera, Islamophobia surged in recent years in reaction to the refugee crisis, despite the Muslim community being comparatively small. The report criticises the fact that, although Islam is recognised legally as a religion in the country, it is being denied privileges such as the right to establish schools, hold legally recognised weddings or conduct religious services in public spaces. Hate-speech against Muslims and even physical attacks have become more common. For example, in July 2017 two Muslim women were assaulted verbally and physically by a woman in a water park in Prague. Some Muslims have already left the country as a result of the situation.[3] On a political level, anti-Muslim sentiments have proved immensely popular in Czech society. Parties with hostile positions towards Islam met with success in the October 2016 parliamentary elections.[4]

At the same time, attitudes towards Christianity seem to have changed in the intensely secularist Czech society. There is a notable trend towards more positive evaluations of cultural Christianity, with more people rediscovering their religious roots. It is difficult to estimate how deep this identification goes, since it is often closely connected to vehemently anti-immigration attitudes and indifference to Christian social teachings about abortion, same-sex marriage or divorce.[5] As an example of this trend, in September 2017 people in the city of Brno staged a protest against the removal of Christian symbols from advertisements showing a church on the Greek island Santorini, in the German supermarket chain Lidl.[6] The protest spread to other towns such as the small city of Chomutov.[7]

Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague voiced strong reservations about Muslim immigration, calling instead for a greater support for Christian refugees.[8] The Church has appealed to the government to ease asylum restrictions for Christians persecuted in China. It criticised a policy of prioritising trade ties over human rights.[9]

In 2016 “NO to Islam in the Czech Republic” renamed itself “Block Against Islam” and, under its new name, organised several anti-Islam rallies. A dozen demonstrations against admitting more Muslim refugees to the country were organised by “Block Against Islam” in conjunction with the opposition Usvit National Coalition political party. Protests in major cities such as Prague, Brno, Ostrava and Pilsen attracted several hundred demonstrators. “Block Against Islam” has also opposed Muslim practices including halal butchery. The group’s leader Dr Martin Konvicka was investigated by authorities after staging a mock Deash (ISIS) attack on Prague city centre in June 2016. Police also broke up a protest Konvicka organised in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy on 11th September 2016.[10]

The government vigilantly opposes intolerance. In a newspaper interview on 30th July 2016, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stated that “saying every Muslim is a terrorist” was not the way to counter threats.[11]

On a positive note, in August 2016 a group of approximately 80 Czech Muslims attended Mass at the Catholic Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord in Prague in memory of the murder of Father Jacques Hamel, killed by Daesh (ISIS) terrorists in France. After the Mass, Muslim representatives spoke about the tenets common to both religions and condemned terrorism. This was followed by the formation of a human chain of about 400 people around the church.[12]

Prospects for freedom of religion

Since the intensification of the refugee crisis in 2015 the situation for the small Muslim minority as well as Muslim visitors has deteriorated. These acts of intolerance are generally punished promptly by the authorities. However, popular opposition to the refugee resettlement programme of the European Union continues to increase and is likely to continue generating tensions. At the same time, attitudes towards the cultural heritage of Christianity improved slightly. For other religious minorities, the situation is neither improving, nor deteriorating.

Endnotes / Sources

[1] Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms from 1992 https://www.usoud.cz/fileadmin/user_upload/ustavni_soud_www/Pravni_uprava/AJ/Listina_English_version.pdf (accessed 23rd March 2018).

[2] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom –Czech Republic, US Department of State, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=268806 (accessed 23rd March 2018).

[3] Philip Heijmans, ‘Czech Republic’s tiny Muslim community subject to hate’, Aljazeera.com,  13th November 2017, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/czech-republic-tiny-muslim-community-subject-hate-171112063523840.html (accessed 23rd March 2018).

[4] ‘Small Czech Muslim community faces bigotry’, tribune.co.uk, 14th November 2017, https://tribune.com.pk/story/1557943/9-small-czech-muslim-community-faces-bigotry/ (accessed 23rd March 2018).

[5] Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska, ‘Czechs romanticise cultural Christianity’, neweasterneurope.eu, 11th January 2018, http://neweasterneurope.eu/2018/01/11/czechs-romanticise-cultural-christianity/ (accessed 23rd March 2018).

[6] JB, ‘Białe krzyże odpowiedzią Czechów na poprawność polityczną Lidla’, pch24.pl, 7th September 2017  http://www.pch24.pl/biale-krzyze-odpowiedzia-czechow-na-poprawnosc-polityczna-lidla,54386,i.html (accessed 10th April 2018).

[7] Kamila Minaříková, ‘Lidl opět zasahuje proti křížům. Tentokrát vadí ty od aktivistů’, denik.cz, 12th September 2017 https://www.denik.cz/z_domova/lidl-opet-zasahuje-proti-krizum-tentokrat-vadi-ty-od-aktivistu-20170912.html (accessed 10th April 2018).

[8] Jonathan Luxmoore, ‘Czecz Cardinal warns against Muslimimmigration’, thetablet.co.uk, 5th July 2017, http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/7421/czech-cardinal-warns-against-muslim-immigration- (accessed 23rd March 2018).

[9] Jonathan Luxmoore, ‘Czech bishops urge asylum for Chinese Christians’, thetablet.co.uk, 13th March 2018, http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/8718/czech-bishops-urge-asylum-for-chinese-christians- (accessed 23rd March 2018).

[10] CTK news agency, ‘Czech officials disperse assembly for disparaging Islam’, 12th September 2016; http://www.romea.cz/en/news/czech/czech-officials-disperse-assembly-for-disparaging-islam (accessed 17th April 2018)

[11] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom –Czech Republic, US Department of State, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=268806 (accessed 23rd March 2018).

[12] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom –Czech Republic, US Department of State, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=268806 (accessed 23rd March 2018).

About us

Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 6000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.