Czech Republic

Last Updated 2 January 2024

The Czech Republic, or Czechia, is a constitutionally secular state. Beneath the secular surface, however, there are a number of systemic privileges and special permissions granted to religious groups.

According to the 2021 Census,1 48% of the population are non-religious. 22% of the population identify as religious, of which 59% (representing 13% of the actual population) belong to a church or religious society – the majority of whom are Roman Catholic. It should be noted that 30% of the population opted not to answer the question. A comparison with 2011 census data indicates that the percentage of those identifying as non-religious has increased in the intervening years.2

Systemic Discrimination
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

The Constitution3 of the Czech Republic protects the rights of the individual and guarantees that the State will be secular.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms,4 a supplementary constitutional document, states in Chapter 1, Article 2(1) that “Democratic values constitute the foundation of the state, so that it may not be bound either to an exclusive ideology or to a particular religious faith.” Articles 15 and 16 protect freedom of thought, conscience and of religion or belief, explicitly mentioning the right to “have no religious conviction.” Freedom of religion or belief may be limited by law in the event of threats to “public safety and order, health and morals, or the rights and freedoms of others.”

Article 17 protects free speech and specifically prohibits censorship. Other articles in the Charter protect freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights. The Charter also guarantees the independence of religious societies from the state, and stipulates conscientious objectors cannot be compelled to perform military service.

Registration of religious groups

Act no. 3/2002, on freedom of religion and the status of churches and religious societies, outlines special conditions and privileges to religious groups and organizations.5

The Act establishes a two-tiered system of registration for religious groups, although churches can operate without registration.
First tier registration confers limited tax benefits, but is relatively easy to meet the qualification requirements. Religious groups seeking second tier registration must meet stricter requirements to be registered; second tier groups are entitled to the tax benefits granted to first-tier groups and the exercise of special rights, including conducting weddings, teaching religion in public schools, and conducting chaplaincy services in the army and prisons. At the introduction of this two-tier system, religious groups who had been registered before 2002 received second-tier status automatically regardless of whether they met the necessary requirements.6

Second tier religious groups who were registered prior to 2002 are also entitled to government subsidies, however the law phases out direct state subsidies over a 17-year period set to end in 2029. According to the US State Department, the government provided 17 groups subsidies totalling CZK 940 million ($42.5 million) in 2022.7

In addition, the Ministry of Culture reportedly provided CZK 2.32 million ($105,000) in grants for religiously-oriented cultural activities in response to applications from various religious groups, including: the annual Night of Churches held in several cities; the Red Wednesday project in support of victims of religious persecution; a liturgical festival of St. Cyril and Methodius in Velehrad; the annual Concert in Memory of Holocaust Victims; the annual 2022 Hussite Festival, a program of the Rabbi Feder Cultural and Educational Center; the Culture against Antisemitism Festival and March; and the 16th annual Festival of Religious Music.8

Education and children’s rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms determines that religious education in state schools shall be set by law (Article 16(3)). Student attendance at religious classes is optional. If seven or more students register for a particular religion class at the beginning of the school year, the school must offer that class to those who registered.9

Eleven second tier religious groups have permission to teach religion classes. These groups provide the teachers, and the school pays their salaries. If a state school does not have the funds to pay for its religious education teachers, religious groups pay for them.10

The government does not regulate religious instruction in private schools.11

Sex education

According to a 2018 report, sexuality education is legally supported and is mandatory both at the primary and secondary level. However, schools have considerable autonomy in deciding what content to teach, and parents may communicate with the school regarding the topics that they prefer to teach their children themselves.12 This results in uneven teaching.13

A 2020 survey conducted by the Czech Secondary School Union indicates that almost 50% of students did not learn relevant information about sex and sexuality at school.14

Opposition to sexuality education is reported to come primarily from religious families and conservative opposition groups, such as the Committee for the Defence of Parental Rights.15

Family, community and society

After the fall of communism many East-Central European nations experienced a backlash against atheism, which had been the made the official state ideology. The Czech Republic has not seen a comparable return to religion however, with 48% of the population having stated that they are not religious in the 2021 census.

Reports indicate that religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Jews are victims of hate crimes.16

LGBTI+ rights

Czech law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, legislation does not recognize hate crimes against LGBTI+ people, and therefore does not register attacks on them as such.17

Despite the fact that the Czech Republic has recognized registered partnership since 2006, full equality for same-sex couples is not legalized.18 Legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage is under review by parliament.19

While gender reassignment is possible, surgery is required, along with sterilization. In March 2022, the Constitutional Court upheld the sterilization requirement, a decision condemned by progressive campaigners and the European Court of Human Rights who it deem to be a violation of human rights.20;;

Reports indicate that senior public officials are known to espouse anti-LGBTI+ views.21 The Prime Minister at the time of reporting, Petr Fiala, is a proponent of so-called traditional family values, and is opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage on the basis that it “goes against my faith, my reason, against all that I know.”22

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Article 17(4) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of expression, and Article 355 of the Criminal Code23 (in Czech); limits this only in cases of defamation against “a group of people for” a range of traits including “religion” or, notably, “because they are actually or allegedly without religion, shall be punished by imprisonment of up to two years.”24 Analysis suggests this does not constitute a “defamation of religion” or de facto ‘blasphemy’ law and could only be used to limit incitement against a group of people so defined.

Article 356 of the Criminal Code further outlaws incitement of hatred towards a religious group. Article 404 criminalizes sympathy for hate groups/movements and Article 405 protects against “public denial, questioning, endorsement or vindication of genocide.”

Advocacy of humanist values

Articles 17-23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms grant citizens political rights to expression, association, assembly, petition, and participation in the administration of public affairs. Specifically, Article 23 grants citizens the “right to resist anybody who would do away with the democratic order of human rights and fundamental freedoms established by the Charter, if the work of the constitutional organs and an effective use of legal means are frustrated.”

According to Freedom House, “the environment for civil society has grown increasingly antagonistic as the government and its allies have harshly criticized some outspoken NGOs.”25

As of the time of reporting, CIVICUS – a global civil society alliance that monitors civic space – scored the Czech Republic as “free” with a score of 86/100.26


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