Left-wing parties push through controversial bill on churches
The ruling Social Democrats pooled their votes with the Communists in the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday to push through a controversial amendment to the law on Churches, overturning a recent veto by the Senate. Opponents to the bill say that it would seriously undermine the rights of churches and some deputies have already said they are prepared to take the matter to the Constitutional Court.
The Catholic Church is particularly upset about the outcome of the vote. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk:
"We feel that the Social Democrats have let us down. During talks with the prime minister and culture minister Vitezslav Jandak we were assured that this amendment was not absolutely necessary and would not be debated in Parliament. Neither of them kept their word and we are particularly sorry that they acted together with the Communists to push it through."
The bill and the exchanges around it have inevitably worsened already tense relations between the government and the Catholic Church, which claims that fulfilling its mission in one of the most secular countries in Europe is not always easy. Should the bill end up in court - the judge who gets the case will not have an easy task. A number of studies, which the ruling Social Democrats commissioned ahead of the vote, are reported to be highly inconclusive.