The constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and the rights of individuals to express their beliefs. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, incitement of religious discrimination, and inflammation of religious hatred and intolerance. The law codifies the protection of religious freedom for individuals, the status of churches and other religious communities as legal entities, the process of registration with the government, the rights of registered religious groups, and the responsibilities of the government’s Office for Religious Communities.
According to the law, the rights of religious groups include autonomy in selecting their legal form and constituency; the freedom to define their internal organization as well as name and define the competencies of their employees; autonomy in defining the rights and obligations of their members; the latitude to participate in interconfessional organizations within the country or abroad; the authority to provide religious services to the military, police, prisons, hospitals, and social care institutions; and the freedom to construct buildings for religious purposes. The law states religious groups have a responsibility to respect the constitution and the legal provisions on nondiscrimination.
The penal code’s definition of hate crimes includes publicly provoking religious hatred and diminishing the significance of the Holocaust. Punishment for these offenses is imprisonment for up to two years, or, if the crime involves coercion or endangerment of security – defined as a serious threat to life and limb, desecration, or damage to property – imprisonment for up to five years. If an official abusing the power of his or her position commits these offenses, the punishment may be increased to imprisonment for up to five years. A group which engages in these activities in an organized and premeditated way – a hate group – also receives a higher penalty.
Religious groups and the activities of religious groups are unrestricted, regardless of whether they register with the government. Religious groups must register with the Office for Religious Communities if they wish to be considered legal entities and be eligible for rebates on value‑added taxes and government co‑financing of social security for clergy. Registered religious groups have the right to request financial support from the government to pay for salaries and social benefits for their religious workers.
To register, religious groups must submit an application to the Office for Religious Communities providing proof they fulfill the government’s requirements: at least 10 adult members who are citizens or permanent residents; the name of the religious group in Latin letters, which must be clearly distinguishable from the name of other religious groups; the group’s address in the country; a copy of its official seal to be used in legal transactions; and payment of a 22.66 euro ($24.66) administrative tax. Religious groups must also provide the names of the group’s representatives in the country, a description of the foundations of the group’s religious beliefs, and a copy of its organizational act. The government may only refuse the registration of a religious group if it does not provide the required application materials in full, or if the Office for Religious Communities determines it is a hate group. Forty‑nine religious groups are registered. If a group wishes to apply for government co‑sponsorship of social security for clergy members, it must show it has at least 1,000 members for every clergy member.
The law requires that animals be stunned prior to slaughter.
Individuals have the right to file complaints about abuses of religious freedom committed by national or local authorities with the Office of the Ombudsman for the Protection of Human Rights. The ombudsman’s office may then forward these complaints to the court whereupon the complaints are considered formal.
The Denationalization Act of 1991 established regulations and procedures to handle property restitution cases stemming from the Communist regime’s confiscation of public property and the property of religious groups, such as the Catholic Church and the Jewish community, during and after World War II. In accordance with the law, citizens may apply for the return of property nationalized between 1945 and 1963. Monetary compensation may be provided to former owners who cannot be compensated in kind, for example, if state institutions are using the property for an official state purpose or public service such as education or health care.
The government requires all schools to include education on world religions in their curricula, with instruction provided by school teachers. The law also mandates Holocaust education in schools. Instruction focuses on the history of the Holocaust inside and outside of the country. A booklet published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is used as part of the Holocaust education curriculum.