PRAGUE, Czech Republic — A Czech court has ruled that the country’s Ministry of Culture committed an unlawful interference when it interpreted internal regulations of the Hussite Church.
The court’s decision sends a clear message that state bodies have no right to interfere with the internal governance of churches.
“This is a welcome ruling for both religious and non-religious Czechs,” said Jakub Kříž, who represented the Czechoslovak Hussite Church and is an allied lawyer of ADF International.
Religious freedom is foundational for any free and flourishing society, and the court has rightly upheld it for the benefit of all Czech citizens.
“Religious freedom is foundational for any free and flourishing society, and the court has rightly upheld it for the benefit of all Czech citizens.”
“Churches should be free to manage their own affairs as they see fit, without state interference. The decision of the Supreme Administrative Court makes this crystal clear.”
The Ministry of Culture conducted an inspection of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church in August 2011. The purpose of the inspection was to check how the church was using funds provided by the Czech Government.
The Ministry’s findings were mainly based on interpretation of the church’s internal regulations. For example, in several cases the Ministry of Culture asserted that certain individuals did not meet requirements to be appointed as church ministers.
Because it is a matter for churches themselves to decide who it appoints as leaders and how to run its internal affairs, the Czechoslovak Hussite Church’s attorney filed a complaint with the Prague Municipal Court.
The complaint was not successful but the church then filed another complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Supreme Administrative Court stated that it is not permissible for a state authority to interpret internal church regulations. The court said that this is because it breaches the right of religious autonomy, which is guaranteed by two pieces of Czech legislation: The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms, and the Religious Freedom Act.
The court decided that only an authorised church body is competent for the interpretation of internal church regulations, not the state. On this basis, the court concluded that the Ministry of Culture had committed an unlawful interference.