Of the many laws that parliament approved at its March session, the president vetoed only two, neither of which was as important as a law that Gašparovič chose to sign, despite the fact that it regards basic human rights and freedoms, and quite clearly is in conflict with the Constitution.
The law in question is the amendment to the Act on Religious Freedoms and the Status of Churches and Religious Organizations. Attorney General Dobroslav Trnka has already challenged the constitutionality of the old law because it introduced a numerical barrier in requiring that 20,000 signatures be secured in order to register a church or religious organization. Trnka argued that this violated people's fundamental right of association, and was thus in conflict with the Constitution and Slovakia's international obligations.
Neither parliament nor the president listened to the attorney general, however, but decided instead to virtually prevent the formation of any further churches or religious organizations. From now on, new churches and religious organizations, in order to be registered, must "submit declarations by at least 20,000 adult members [of the church], who are Slovak citizens and permanently reside in Slovakia, to the effect that they support the church or religious organization, that they support the proposal for registration, that they are members of the church, know its basic statutes, and are aware of the rights and responsibilities that flow from membership in the church, and that they provide their names and surnames, permanent addresses and ID numbers".
If the original requirement of 20,000 signatures was in conflict with the Constitution - and today no-one can decide this because the law no longer exists - its restriction to require these signatures to be provided by 20,000 church members is in conflict with common sense. Ivan Gašparovič provided no official reason for signing this measure into law rather than returning it to parliament, but once again his actions have proved that the Slovak president is more defined by what he didn't do, despite having the opportunity, than by what he did do.
Sme, May 10
14. May 2007 at 0:00 | Juraj Hrabko