Last Updated 24 October 2023

Slovakia is a democratic republic with a multi-party parliamentary system. After the 1989 collapse of Communism, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 meant that Slovakia became an independent state. It is now a member of the EU and NATO. The population of around 5.4 million people is predominantly Catholic. Just under a quarter of the population are non-religious.1

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

According to the Slovak Constitution2 (Article 1), the state does not affiliate itself with any specific religion.

The right to freedom of belief and religious (or non-religious) expression is outlined in the Constitution.

“The freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, and faith are guaranteed. This right also comprises the possibility to change one’s religious belief or faith. Everyone has the right to be without religious belief. Everyone has the right to publicly express his opinion.”
— Article 24(1), The Constitution of the Slovak Republic

The government has been criticized for policies that favor the Roman Catholic Church, and to a lesser extent other religious groups’ sizeable followings in Slovakia, over newer or minority religions or beliefs. In particular, an extensive concordat between Slovakia and the Vatican, signed in 2000 and subsequently expanded in 2002 and 2004, increased Catholic influence in state schools and the armed forces, as well as increasing government funding to Catholic institutions.3–t755 The government avoided some criticism of this agreement by then extending similar, but lesser, benefits to eleven other religious groups.4 Total government funding to religious groups was €52.8 million (c. US $55.69million) in 2022.5 While the traditional churches have been granted annual valorization of the state funding almost regardless of the decrease in their member base, new churches struggle to achieve official registration.

According to the US State Department,6

“Some members of religious groups continued to state their groups’ reliance on direct government funding limited their independence and religious freedom, and they said religious groups self-censored potential criticism of the government on sensitive topics to avoid jeopardizing their relationship with the state and, consequently, their finances. There were no reports, however, that the government arbitrarily altered the amount of subsidies provided to individual religious groups.”

Since 2017, a law has been in effect in Slovakia that practically makes registering new churches impossible, thus creating a monopoly for already registered churches. Unregistered religious groups said the public tended to distrust them because of their lack of official government recognition. Unregistered groups are prohibited from carrying out activities related to practicing religion.7

Religious privilege and concordats

The separation of Church and the Slovak Republic as outlined in the Constitution is undermined by state-funding of religious institutions and the guarantee of freedom of belief is also compromised by requirements that favor certain religions over others.

The connection between religion and politics has been widely disputed since Slovakia gained its independence in 1993, as state financing of religious institutions compromise the separation of Church and state as outlined in the Constitution.

The influence of the Catholic Church on politics in Slovakia has historical roots: the first Slovak state, a client state of the Third Reich that existed between 1939 and 1945, was led by Catholic priest Jozef Tiso. The clero-fascist regime, whose one-party government issued a number of anti-Semitic laws prohibiting Jews from participating in public life and supported their deportation to concentration camps, had initially been recognized by the Vatican.

The Roman Catholic Church faced heavy persecution under the Communist regime in Slovakia, but all religious orders were allowed to resume their activities following the collapse of Communism in 1989. Property that had been seized was returned, and while the role of religious institutions may not be as influential as prior to Communism, due to the forced laicization of that period, the predominance of the Catholic Church above other religions remains visible in Slovak society.

In 2000, a concordat between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See caused controversy as it ensured that offertories are “not subject to taxation or to the requirement of public accountability”.

In 2006, a row concerning a controversial Vatican treaty that would have allocated new powers to the Catholic Church inadvertently caused the collapse of the Slovak government.8–k31251 The EU were concerned that the proposed treaty constituted a violation of human rights; had the treaty been ratified, Catholic doctors would have been within their rights to refuse to perform abortions and Catholic employees also would have been able to refuse to perform any professional task in accordance with the “conscientious objection” principle. When Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda did not include the treaty in the agenda of government business, the Christian Democrat Movement (KDH) – the main proponents of the concordat – withdrew from the ruling coalition, forcing the government to call an early election.

The connection between the Catholic Church and the State in Slovakia today is evident in the fact that churches receive funding from the State budget, which completely covers the salaries of the clergy, and the rest is disposable almost for any purpose.

In 2015, a proposition to normalize the current financial arrangement regarding State funding of churches was rejected in parliament. However, in 2019, it was modified to prevent the decrease in financing because of the reduction of the church member base.9Law 370/2019

The Catholic Church also receives revenues from the rental of buildings, forests, agricultural land and building plots that were returned to it following the fall of;;;

Education and children’s rights

The right to religious education is guaranteed by Act no. 29/1984 Zb.11

Article 24 of the Slovak Constitution states that it is churches and religious societies that “organise the teaching of religion.”

On 13 May 2004, the Concordat between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See on Catholic Education was signed. This treaty, along with the Agreement between the Slovak Republic and the Registered Societies on Religious Education, introduces religious education into the Slovak educational system as an elective mandatory subject with the option of attending a secular ethics class as an alternative. Religious studies classes are taught by a member of the clergy and with a focus on one specific religion.

Family, community and society

Of the 18 registered churches in Slovakia, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest and 55.8% of the population identify as Roman Catholic. Other prominent religious institutions include the 5.3% Lutherans, 4.0% Greek Catholics, 1.6% Calvinists, and 0.9% Orthodox. 23.8% of the population is non-religious.12

Non-religious people have no governmental support analogous to Churches. They have no association and their rights are defended by two minor public societies (humanists and secularists).

According to a report commissioned by the EU parliament in 2020,13

“In Slovakia, a significant increase in opposition against gender equality can be noted since 2013. Most publicly active actors are predominantly Christian religion-affiliated NGOs and the Church itself. They organise numerous lectures, protests, marches, write articles, and publish videos and petition against the “gender ideology” in direct conflict with the traditional family values.”


Under current legislation, abortion is legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy if there is a threat to health or life of the mother, or risk of fetal impairment.14

According to a report commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs in 2020,15

“The legal status of abortions in the country is being constantly challenged despite the legally binding decision by the Constitutional Court back in 2007 which safeguarded woman’s rights to reproductive self-determination.”

In October 2021, Slovakia’s parliament narrowly rejected proposed legislation that would have tightened access to abortion.16; New proposals to revise the law are drafted regularly.17;

The predominant role of the religious and conservative institutions and actors in the country, and their influence on policymakers across the political spectrum is reported to obstruct women’s access to abortion services. The EU cites lobbying by the Catholic Church as the reason that a pill to induce medical abortion (which was registered by the Slovak Drugs Agency in 2013) has not been authorized for use in practice by the Ministry of Health.18;

Doctors are exempt from providing abortion services under a conscientious objection clause. According to the EU, the evidence indicates that,

“the number of healthcare providers who refuse to provide abortion or sterilization in Slovakia remains currently on a level where the access of women to abortion is not significantly restricted. However, in some regions where influence of the religious and conservative institutions and actors is incredibly strong, no abortion providers are accessible, and women need to travel to the bigger cities to find a facility willing to perform an abortion.”

In addition, in conservative regions health care providing institutions as a whole may misinterpret the rules to apply conscientious objection to the institution as a whole.19

LGBTI+ rights

While homosexuality is not illegal in Slovakia, same-sex unions are not protected in law and some privileges available to heterosexual couples are denied to same-sex couples. In 2014 a constitutional amendment banned same-sex marriage. A referendum on the ban in 2015 sent a mixed message, with over 90% of those who voted agreeing that marriage should remain heterosexual-only. However, in an apparent victory for liberal and pro-LGBTI+ rights campaigners – who had called for a boycott of the referendum – only 21.4% of eligible voters turned out, voiding the poll (which required a 50% turnout to be valid) More than half of the population rejected the introduction of registered partnerships in 2019,21 and the latest investigations have brought promising results.22

The LGBTI+ community is facing attempts to ban their partnership and parenthood rights in Parliament, for which extremists and several mainstream Catholics are commonly voting. The proposal failed to get enough votes at first reading to proceed to a second reading on 17 March 2023.23;

In 2022, a terrorist attack24 on a gay bar in Bratislava was recorded, which claimed two lives. On this occasion, Archbishop Orosch issued a circular for priests, in which he explained to them that the victims of this attack were not innocent. Christian members of Parliament protested against the statement of the European Parliament, which condemned this attack and described it as interference in Slovakia’s internal affairs.25 The coalition leader (Igor Matovič) and opposition leader (Róbert Fico) both made homophobic statements ahead of the elections in 2023.26

Religious minorities

Theoretically all religions and belief systems should be equally protected under the Constitution, but the members of government are reported to regularly make anti-semitic and anti-Muslim statements.27 The State criminalizes holocaust denial.

The Slovak government has become known for its tough stance on immigration from Muslim countries and reluctance to accept asylum seekers from the Islamic world.28 Slovakia is among the four countries that refused to implement the EU settlement scheme and Prime Minister Robert Fico has made anti-Muslim statements in the past, promising to “protect Slovakia” and that he “will never allow a single Muslim immigrant under a quota system.” In May 2016, Fico stated that “Islam has no place in Slovakia”.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedoms of speech and of the press are protected by the Constitution, and these rights are generally respected in practice. However, there have been concerns that some media outlets sometimes face political interference. Journalists continue to face verbal attacks and libel suits by public officials, though these have decreased in frequency in recent years. Criminal libel laws are reportedly used to silence criticism.29;;

According to Freedom House,30

“In 2021, the government “embarked on a major overhaul of media legislation,” introducing new laws that would impose severe penalties for disseminating “false information.” International media rights groups have criticized the proposed legislation, expressing fears that it could be used to restrict media independence and curtail press freedom. The legislation remained under consideration in parliament at year’s end.”

Defamation of religion

According to the US State Department,

“The law prohibits the defamation of a person’s or group’s belief, treating a violation as a criminal offense punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.”31

According to Article 423 of the Criminal Code,32 “Defamation of nation, race and belief”:

“Who defames publicly
a) any nation, its language, any race or ethnic group, or
b) a group of persons or an individual because of their real or supposed belonging to a certain race, nation, nationality, ethnic group, because of their real or supposed origin, skin color, religious belief or because they have no religion,shall be punished by imprisonment for one to three years.
(2) The offender shall be punished by imprisonment for two to five years if he commits the act referred to in paragraph 1
a) as a member of an extremist group,
b) as a public official, or
c) from a special motive.”

In 2020, an opinion writer was accused of defaming Catholics in a 2018 article in which he mocked and sharply criticized a Catholic priest, who is reportedly known for his radically conservative social views and links to the far-right.33; The charges were reportedly dropped later in the year.34


4, 6, 7, 27, 31
9 Law 370/2019
13, 15, 19

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