More paper work for church charities

More paper work for religious charities in the Czech Republic is the outcome of a Constitutional Court ruling on Tuesday. The Court rejected a complaint against a controversial 2005 amendment to the Act on Churches and Religious Societies. As of now, every church-run charity in the Czech Republic will have to register with the Culture Ministry.

Several Christian Democratic senators complained to the Constitutional Court about an amendment to the Act on Churches and Religious Societies: the 2005 amendment, supported by the Social Democrats and Communists, introduces new duties for churches and other religious societies when establishing charities, schools, health facilities and other such institutions. They now have to be registered with the Culture Ministry as on Tuesday, the Constitutional Court rejected the complaint. Michal Spacil is the spokesman for the Constitutional Court.

“The Constitutional Court said in its decision that the new legal arrangement does not infringe on any constitutional rights; on the contrary, it strengthens the legal security of third parties because it clearly specifies the legal identity of charities as well as the rules each of them follows. Even though the new arrangement raises the administrative burden, the judges of the Constitutional Court say it does not lay any excessive, ineffectual, or harassing demands on the churches when establishing legal bodies.”

With the majority of eight judges in the 15-member assembly, the Constitutional Court said that the rules of some religious societies applying to the establishment of charities are not always sufficient. Jiri Gracka, the spokesperson for the Czech Bishop’s Conference, says that if such is the case, the Court should also supply the churches with further instructions.

“The amendment was aimed at imposing limits on churches when establishing charitable institutions and schools. But we respect the decision and we expect that the justification will include some directions of how to interpret the amendment as well as the entire Act on Churches without any disadvantage posed to churches and other religious societies.”

Caritas Czech Republic is the country’s biggest charity organisation. It is run by the Roman Catholic Church and each year it distributes over 1.6 billion crowns (almost 88 million US dollars) among more than 530 projects to help poor people throughout the Czech Republic. The director of Caritas Czech Republic Oldrich Haicman says the ruling means fewer funds for charity work.

“In general, the decision of the Constitutional Court is denying us the right to establish new charitable organisations which the Catholic Charity could found independently of the state. This certainly goes against the Declaration of Human Rights. The ruling will bring a huge amount of administrative work for our charity necessary to comply with all the conditions set by the state. We wish we could spend the money on work with those in need.”

According to Mr Haicman, Caritas Czech Republic will consider whether or not to appeal the Constitutional Court ruling at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.