published: 03.09.2012, 18:05 | updated: 03.09.2012 18:07:07
Brno - Courts can rule on churches´ property claims until the lawmakers pass a bill returning property to churches, it ensues from the Czech Constitutional Court´s (US) verdict on a complaint from an east Bohemian parish today.
General courts previously rejected churches´ lawsuits, citing the article in the land law that blocks the handling of former church property until a bill on state-church property settlement is passed.
The relevant bill is on the parliament´s agenda now. The definitive vote on it is to be taken at the Chamber of Deputies´ session that starts on Tuesday.
The US said as a result of the long waiting for the church restitution, an anti-constitutional legal gap had arisen that must be filled by courts.
The US has been naturally watching the latest development around the government´s bill returning property to churches, the US judge-rapporteur, Stanislav Balik, told CTK.
"On the other hand, it would be impossible for the US to continue waiting for the legislative process´s result because by doing so it would assist in the status quo that is at variance with law," Balik said.
He said the lawmakers have committed arbitrariness by their long-lasting inactivity in relation to churches claiming the return of their former property confiscated by the communist regime.
"It is no longer enough that parliament is working on passing the bill. The time has come for the legislative process to be completed. If there is a gap in a law, it always means a violation of the law," Balik said.
After the US verdict today, Czech courts are no longer expected to cite the blocking article as a reason for rejecting churches´ lawsuits seeking property return. They must duly handle each claim and order the property return if it finds the claim rightful.
Defence lawyer Stanislav Hykys said today´s US verdict has far-reaching consequences.
"It paves the way for churches and religious companies to lodge hundreds of lawsuits and claim their historical properties. In my opinion, the passing of the [state-church property] settlement bill would eliminate this situation and prevent hundreds of court disputes from taking place," Hykys said.
Balik said if the bill were passed, it would naturally become binding for handling property relations between the state and churches.
The US has not set any guidelines for general courts to follow until then. It is not the US´s task to do so, Balik said.
The government-proposed bill has fomented stormy discussions in the past months. It has been criticised by the leftist opposition.
Under the government bill, Czech churches are to be returned land and real estate worth 75 billion and given 59 billion crowns in financial compensation for unreturned property during the following 30 years. The largest sum, 47 billion crowns, would go to the Roman Catholic Church.
The state is to gradually cease financing the churches. The transitional period is to last 17 years.
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