Civil marriage ceremonies may become compulsory


For over a decade now Czechs who want to enter into matrimony have been able to chose whether to have a church wedding or a civil ceremony. That may be about to change for the Justice Ministry is currently preparing an amendment to the civil code which would make civil marriages compulsory once again.

Under the communist regime civil marriages were compulsory and church marriages were frowned upon by the authorities. After the revolution an amendment to the law not only put civil and church marriage ceremonies on an equal footing, but also enabled marriage ceremonies to be held in more adventurous and romantic locations than the local town hall. Everyone seems happy with the present arrangement. So why change it? According to the authors of the proposal, it is for legal and administrative reasons. Karel Elias, a lawyer who helped draft the amendment, argues that civil weddings are compulsory in most European states. "A church wedding cannot have legal consequences, it is a promise before God " Elias says. Many believers have reacted with anger to this claim, as have priests in Moravia where there is a big Catholic community. The Prague Jewish community has also joined the protests.

Catholic Bishop Vaclav Maly says that the proposed amendment is further proof of the fact that many Czech politicians are unwilling to give the Church its rightful place in society.

"I think this proposal stems from ideological reasons. The deputies who are pushing for this change see the Church in an ideological framework and they lead the public to believe that it is seeking greater power and influence, that conducting church marriages is some sort of privilege for the church. It is a pity that in the present day and age some parliamentary deputies are unable to view the Church as an integral part of society and still feel the need to curb its influence on life in the Czech Republic."

The proposed amendment has yet to be debated by the government and both houses of Parliament, but already the Justice Ministry is being showered with protests and demands for an explanation.