Church restitution bill approved by lower house

The lower house has approved a bill on the restitution of church property. The bill was pushed through by coalition deputies in spite of heated protests from the opposition parties who have repeatedly challenged the volume of property being returned and the financial compensation to be paid out for the rest arguing that the country’s public finances are in no state to carry such a burden.

Under the draft legislation, the Czech state would return some 56 percent of the physical property worth around 75 billion crowns; for the rest, Czech churches and religious societies would receive some 60 billion crowns in compensation over a period of 30 years.

The bill will now go to the opposition-controlled Senate where it faces almost certain rejection before returning to the lower house for another vote in the autumn. The opposition claims that with the majority of Czechs opposing church restitutions it will be harder for the ruling parties to give it a final seal of approval ahead of the senate and regional elections in the fall. However Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Friday night he was confident the coalition would have the 101 votes needed to overturn the Senate’s veto.