On Thursday, the Czech parliament approved a plan to return billions of dollars and all church property confiscated by previous communist governments. The law would hand back land, property, and financial compensation worth about $7 billion to the churches over a period of 30 years. The real estate would be returned to the churches soon, and would allow the churches to become independent from the government. State funding of churches would be phased out and stopped.
The law would move a huge 6 percent of the country’s prime forest, fields, and agricultural land that once belonged largely to Christian churches, but were confiscated after 1948, with communists coming to power. The return of the property was held up over disputes and objections. In fact, the Czech Senate had vetoed the law, but the veto was overturned in the lower house with the required majority.
Negotiations with politicians had been led by the Roman Catholic Church though the property would be returned to churches of all denominations. The law can pave the way for religious body to reclaim their role in the Czech society.
The law now awaits approval of the President Vaclav Klaus, who had earlier voiced doubts about the bill. He can again veto the bill if he chooses to; however, the majority gained in the lower house in support of the bill is sufficient to overturn a presidential veto in Czechoslovakia.
Detractors of the law have pointed out that the deal would lead to a budget deficit in the GDP in order to cover compensation payments. This would be taking place at a time when the government has recently adopted tax hikes and austerity measures to combat budget deficits.
Needless to say, the deal is meeting strong opposition from leftist and atheist people in Czechoslovakia.