PRAGUE, Czech Republic — The new Czech minority government led by populist billionaire Andrej Babis has agreed with a proposal to tax the compensation that the country’s churches receive for property seized by the former Communist regime.
The government announced its decision Wednesday, when it also faces a confidence vote in Parliament.
The proposal came from the Communist Party, a vocal opponent of the compensation plan.
Under the plan, the nation’s churches, including the Catholic and Protestant churches, would get back some of their old property held by the state and they would also get $2.8 billion over 30 years.
Babis says the compensation is too generous and needs correction.
The move, which needs parliamentary approval, is seen as an attempt from Babis to win support from the Communists in the confidence vote.
Redemptorist Father Stanislav Přibyl, the secretary general of the Czech bishops’ conference, said the restitution was “not a gift.”
“It is a partial reimbursement for the property confiscated by the Communists which had been intended to support the livelihood of priests and religious in the then Czechoslovakia,” he wrote on the bishops’ website.
He accused the Communist Party and its allies of trying to justify their original confiscations by “this attempt at taxation.”
“Their assessment of what is fair and unfair is not based on actual facts, and has no bearing on history or the pursuit of a compromise between the correction of demonstrable injustices and the possibilities of the government’s budget,” Přibyl wrote.
Přibyl also said the agreement between the State and Church was signed between the two parties in a treaty, and the present government should respect the rule of law, and that a unilateral change of the agreement on the part of the state would affect the “quality of democracy” in the country.
Crux staff contributed to this report.