Path of Guru Jara stated its members were subjected to religious persecution by the government. In 2014 the regional court in Brno convicted in absentia the group’s leader, Jaroslav Dobes, and another member, Barbora Plaskova, of rape. In May the High Court of Olomouc overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial. Dobes and Plaskova were in a detention center in the Philippines, where they applied for asylum on religious grounds. Dobes appealed against the rejection of his asylum application. After conducting an investigation, the Danish human rights NGO Soteria stated in a 2015 report there was religious discrimination against members of the group and possible human rights violations in relation to the police, court trial procedures, and media campaigns against Dobes and his associates. The directors of both the Czech Helsinki Committee and Human Rights Without Frontiers International wrote letters of support expressing concerns about the case involving Dobes and Plaskova.
The MOC denied the first‑tier registration application of the Czech Orthodox Church (Ceska pravoslavna cirkev) in February. The religious group appealed the rejection. The MOC denied the appeal in July. The Order of the Guardians of the Crown and Sword of the Iron and Golden King appealed against the denial of their 2014 first‑tier registration application. The MOC denied the appeal in April. In both cases the MOC denied the application on grounds of fraud during the collection of signatures of the 300 minimum number of adherents required for the application. Neither group appealed its rejection in court.
The MOC did not register any church or religious society during the year. Registration applications from four groups remained pending at year’s end: the Lions of the Round Table and the Order of the Lands of the Czech Crown, which applied in late 2014, the Knights Templar, which applied in March, and the Path of Guru Jara, which applied in July.
Seventeen second‑tier religious groups received approximately 3.5 billion koruna ($145 million) from the government. The government paid approximately 1.4 billion koruna ($58 million) as a subsidy and 2.1 billion koruna ($87 million) as part of compensation for communal property in private and state hands that would not be returned to churches. Five of the 22 second‑tier groups declined all state funding. While accepting the state subsidy, the Baptist Union opted not to accept the compensation for nonrestituted property. The MOC provided 4.5 million koruna ($186,000) in grants for religiously oriented cultural activities in response to applications from a variety of religious groups.
The government continued to address outstanding religious communal property restitution cases. These included claims of the Roman Catholic authorities and other religious groups concerning property seized during the communist era. Although the government had returned most Catholic churches, parishes, and monasteries in the 1990s, most land and forests previously owned by the Catholic Church remained in state possession and were being returned in the framework of 2012 restitution legislation. Between January and October, the government settled with religious groups 2,148 claims for agricultural property and 249 claims for nonagricultural property. As of October there were 4,056 agricultural property cases and 1,544 nonagricultural property cases remaining unresolved. At year’s end, 158 lawsuits filed by religious groups appealing government restitution decisions remained pending in the courts.
In accordance with restitution legislation, the Brno Jewish community resubmitted a claim for a property possessed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The ministry stated it did not believe the community held the title to the property, and rejected the claim in 2014. The Brno Jewish community appealed to the municipal court in Brno. The case was pending at year’s end.
President Milos Zeman, along with other politicians, made several public statements equating Islam with terrorism. In June President Zeman stated in a media interview that he did not want Islam in the country. In October he said in a public meeting that Muslim refugees would not respect national laws and would apply sharia. In November Zeman made remarks critical of Islam at a rally in Prague organized by Bloc Against Islam, a collection of populist groups. Several politicians from both the government and opposition, including the prime minister, criticized the president in the national media for what they said was scaremongering.
The opposition Usvit political party, which had representatives in parliament, organized several rallies against Islam and rejecting Muslim refugees. Some of these rallies included hundreds of protestors and were held in major cities, including Prague, Brno, and Ostrava. Several counter protests in support of refugees were also organized, usually in direct opposition to these anti‑Muslim and anti refugee protests.
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) continued to monitor the activities of groups and political parties espousing anti‑Semitic views, including National Democracy, National Revival, and the Workers’ Party of Social Justice. It reported 25 “white power” music concerts took place in the country, where participants expressed anti‑Semitic and neo‑Nazi views.
In December Chairman of the National Democracy Party Adam Bartos and another member of the party were charged with incitement to hatred and defamation over a note they wrote supporting an 1899 blood libel trial. Bartos continued his anti‑Semitic internet postings, including statements that the Holocaust as presented was an example of conspiracy and calling on the European Jewish Congress to apologize for what he called injustices caused by Jews to the nation.
In January the former leader of the opposition party, Dawn of Direct Democracy, published a post on Facebook calling for “protection of the heritage of our ancestors against Islam” and instructed people to “walk pigs and dogs near mosques.”
In April Deputy Chairman of the Senate Premysl Sobotka and Minister of Culture Daniel Herman sponsored and participated in an annual march and concert against Anti‑Semitism. About 900 people attended the event.
The government funded religiously oriented cultural activities, including the Night of Churches, the Hussite Festival – Commemoration of the 600th Anniversary of Jan Hus’s Martyrdom, preparation of a new permanent exhibition in the Jerusalem Synagogue, Kristfest of the Apostolic Church, and the Catholic‑associated Romani Pilgrimage.
The government is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the founder of ESLI.