THE REGIONAL Court in Košice has confirmed the verdict of the first instance court in an unusual case in which a resident of Košice, Michal Holováč, filed a lawsuit against both the Greek-Orthodox Church in Slovakia and the Greek-Catholic Church requesting that the court oblige both churches to cancel his membership in them and provide written confirmation of doing so.
The Košice District Court II initially dismissed his lawsuit and although the verdict of the Regional Court in Košice is binding, Holováč has decided to file a special appeal with the Slovak Supreme Court and may even turn to Slovakia’s Constitutional Court asking for an evaluation of the constitutionality of both courts’ verdicts.
“By being baptised, one can be very easily included into a religious community based on one’s parents’ decision but the churches have refused to respect my personal will not to be in a church,” Holováč told the TASR newswire. He said that both churches have refused to tell him precisely what he must do in order to be excluded as a member and have only made some vague hints instead. “This reluctance by the churches was the reason why I filed my suit,” he said.
In 2003, Holováč asked the Greek-Catholic Church and the Greek-Orthodox Church in Slovakia to nullify his Greek-Orthodox christening, to nullify his membership in both churches and to issue a written document confirming this. He said that only after this had been done would he feel like a free person without faith and religion, as secured to him by the Slovak Constitution. He then filed suit with the general court in 2004 to protect his constitutional and civic rights. He sued both churches because even though Holováč underwent communion in a Greek-Catholic Church, that church was persecuted and prohibited by the time of his baptism, so he was baptised in the Greek-Orthodox Church.
Holováč’s mother was a witness at the court and said her son came from a Christian, Greek-Catholic family from the village of Orlík in the Svidník district and that her son took part in church services as a child and even assisted the priests. But she testified that she could do nothing about the behaviour and opinions of her adult children.
In January 2008 the Košice District Court II dismissed his suit in its entirety stating that the evidence did not prove that Holováč’s civil rights had been violated. The suit had no precedent in the Slovak judicial system. The attorney for the Greek-Catholic Church said that Holováč was not a member of its church, was not registered anywhere, and did not take part in its services. Greek-Orthodox priests testified before the court that the sacrament of the christening could not be cancelled and that Holováč was asking them to do something they cannot really do.
Holováč has said that his lack of interest in religious heritage was the main reason for his effort to rid himself of the ties to the church. He thinks that religion has “the form of persecution of heretics in the early days of Christianity, burning of misbelievers, collaboration with Fascist regime during WWII and recently also open threats to people who have other than religious opinions”, as quoted by TASR.