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REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF NON-DENOMINATIONAL CITIZENS IN SLOVAKIA.

After November 1998, in the former Czechoslovak Republic and thereafter in the Slovak Republic, a Constitution and laws were passed that laid the foundation for a democratic and law abiding civil republic. By law, that government is not to be linked with any ideology or religion. These principles have been confirmed by the ratification of international human rights documents, which have priority over the national laws.

These principles, however, are being consistently and grossly violated in practical state policy concerning citizens claiming no religious faith (non-denominational citizens such as atheists, agnostics, those indifferent to a religious life stance, and others) especially as to the PARITY of non-denominational citizens. The state policy has been discriminating against one of its largest communities.

According to an investigation done by the Institute of Slovak Academy of Science, in 1998 there were in Slovakia 16 % convinced atheists, and 19,3 % religiously indifferent citizens (Sociologia 33: 1,63-64,

2001 / Publisher: SAV). The proportion of these groups to the population of Slovakia is 35,3 %.

In actual numbers, there are 800,000 citizens in Slovakia who are convinced atheists and 950,000 who are religiously indifferent.

With reference to the Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (GA UN No53/144, March 8, 1999), we make use of our rights and responsibilities as decreed in this document by issuing the FOLLOWING CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE STATE POLICY related to the non-denominational community of citizens in Slovakia:

1) The Slovak Republic has so far ignored the very existence of atheists, people indifferent to religion and non-denominational citizens, and denied them any legal and/or financial provisions for preserving and developing their specific culture and their spiritual needs. At the same time, using the revenues collected from all taxpayers (including atheists and non-denominational taxpayers), the state has richly supported organisations that promote a RELIGIOUS philosophy of life. Financial support from the state has gone to: church schools, the education of seminarians, the salaries of practising priests, large state subventions made on a regular basis, the erection of new churches and sacral buildings, tax exemptions, pastoral services in the army and prisons, public media programmes, and more. Thus the principle of PARITY for all citizens has been violated.

Through the disparity in state policy, pressure has been exerted on non-denominational and atheists citizens. The result of this pressure is the suppression of SECULAR CULTURE, in Slovakia and the forced assimilation of non-denominational and atheist citizens into the religiously oriented majority.

2.) The state policy of the Slovak executive power has created the SEGREGATION of its non-denominational citizens. This segregation is not based on racism. It is based on the difference of their non-religious life stance. Especially in rural areas, the non-denominational citizens do not dare to openly adhere to their secular belief. They are reluctant to engage in activities that provide for the enjoyment of their specific culture (civil ceremonies, meetings of equally minded members of community, and other opportunities to express and disseminate their beliefs). These citizens also face intimidation in raising their children within a non-religious and secular tradition.

3.) The Slovak government has succeeded in efforts to CONCEAL from the international community the non-democratic disparity and consequent segregation of non-denominational members of the community. This concealment is evidenced by the fact that not a single international body monitoring the observance of rights has yet criticised, in their yearly evaluating reports, the DISCRIMINATION against non-denominational citizens in Slovakia.

These organisations that monitor human rights and other monitoring bodies have dealt exclusively with the situation of national and ethnic groups- such as the Roma minorities, even though these minorities constitute groups substantially smaller than the community of NON-DENOMINATIONAL citizens.

4.) The Slovak government has failed to co-operate with civil initiatives in implementing a just and fair solution of the problem of PARITY, and has not met its obligation to develop equal approaches and policies towards both the religious and the NON-RELIGIOUS communities. An example of this can be quoted (Prometheus Society of Slovakia): one single NGO submitted as many as 60 propositions to high state authorities for reaching PARITY, but not a single one of these points were accepted or implemented.

The main points of these demands were as follows:

  1. To establish a body committed to the management of mutual relations between the state and the non-denominational community (The churches have several such institutions including: the Church Department at the Culture Ministry and the special "Institute for Relations of State and Churches")
  2. To begin broadcasting in the public media programmes intended for the non-denominational community (Over the course of the last ten years the media have not broadcast a single item related to the non-denominational community, while programmes regarding religious communities are broadcast regularly, and in addition, specific editorial boards have been established for this purpose)
  3. To offer specific qualification for secular councillors and humanist chaplains as done in many countries of Europe and in the USA (In contrast, the Slovak Republic runs several theological faculties, a new Catholic university has been established, and programs of study for missionaries are offered by a state university)
  4. To approve activities of secular councillors in the army and in prisons (Priests doing pastoral services and religious activities have been approved, while the proposition for secular councillors was rejected)
  5. To allow representatives of the non-denominational to participate in the preparation of new laws that concern state policy related to citizens with different religious AND non-religious life stance. So far, only the Slovak Bishop Conference and some representatives of RELIGIOUS churches are included in these processes.
  6. To support by financial subventions the community of non-denominational citizens PROPORTIONALLY in the same way the state offers subventions to communities and organisations with religious orientation. Since November 1998, the non-denominational community has not obtained any state funding to support their cultural needs. (Religious communities and organisations get subventions from the state budget every year, which in the last few years equalled about half a billion Sk, every year- additional subventions were given for building new churches and new sacral buildings)

CONCLUSION OF THE EVALUATION

The state policy of the Slovak Republic discriminates against the community of non-denominational citizens, and in doing so violates national law and international law. The State policy has failed to produce PARITY for all citizens regardless of whether their life stance is religious or non-religious.

The described state policy of the Slovak executive power violates the rights of non-denominational citizens to preserve and develop their cultural identity. The State policy has created conditions that LIMIT and RESTRICT the development of the CULTURAL LIFE of the non-denominational community.

By denying the non-religious communities the favours it bestows upon the religious communities, the Slovak Republic has practised DISCRIMINATION. SEGREGATION has occurred, and the members of the

non-denominational community have been treated as SECOND CLASS CITIZENS. Simultaneously, preference has been given to organisations and communities with a religious philosophy of life. The state authority grants to the latter many one-sided advantages in legislative as well as in institutional and financial aspects, while actively denying non-denominational communities their rights to such benefits.

September 29, 2001


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