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President refuses to sign bill on registration of religions for second time

Although President Andrej Kiska repeatedly refused to ink the amendment to the law on religious freedom and the status of religious communities, it will become valid as of March 1.

President Andrej Kiska, illustrative stock photo(Source: Sme)

The bill drafted by the coalition Slovak National Party (SNS) was passed, as parliament has overturned the president’s earlier veto on January 31, the TASR newswire wrote on February 22.

The law stipulates that as of March, signatures of at least 50,000 adult believers with permanent residence in Slovakia will become necessary for an official registration – a significant rise when compared to the currently required 20,000.

The amendment should forestall speculative registration of alleged religious communities aimed at acquiring financial contributions from the state, according to the SNS.

Read also:Registration of churches to become stricter

Kiska proposed that MPs refuse the bill as a whole, reasoning that it interferes erroneously in fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution. Kiska also argues, as cited by the SITA newswire, that the declared goal of the bill was, according to the SNS, “to eliminate speculative registration of alleged religions and religious communities” which have as their ultimate purpose financial contributions from the state. Kiska opines that the MPs filing the draft bill failed to prove in any way that the risk of fraud in registering new religions or communities has been rising. He also added that the number is inadequate due to the actual number of citizens, as only four of the currently 18 registered religions would qualify under the new rules. It is also inadequate when compared with other EU member states.

Proposing MPs argue with money

“Religions and religious communities can freely operate in Slovakia – de iure and also de facto, while the state limits their operation only in respect of legal order,” said Tibor Bernaťák of the SNS. He added that by registering with the Culture Ministry, these religions gain many advantages; they can, for example, ask the state for financial contributions – to pay salaries to their clergy, to operate religious schools or to provide religious education in schools.

“However, this state has a legitimate right to determine the registration conditions – and these are fulfilled by those religions whose believers represent a not inconsiderable number of Slovak citizens,” Bernaťák opined. SNS does not want, though, to limit anyone’s religious freedom, as this is a fundamental human right of every person.

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