Acton Institute Powerblog

Czech commies want to tax church property stolen by Czech commies

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Imagine your property is stolen and then having to have this conversation.

Government authorities: “Good news, we recovered your stolen property!”

You: “That’s great! When can I get it back?”

Gov: “Eh, the bad news is we can only give you back 56 percent of what was stolen.”

You: “Well, I guess that’s better than nothing.”

Gov: “The good news is that you’ll receive cash as restitution for the rest.”

You: “Oh wow. That’s incredible!”

Gov: “The bad news is that you’ll get paid the restitution over 30 years.”

You: “That’s a long time to get back what is owed me. Is there more . . . good news?”

Gov: “Why yes, actually, there is. The good news is that you get to pay taxes on the restitution.”

You: “Wait, what? My property was stolen and I’m expected to pay tax on it? How is that good news?”

Gov: “Well, it’s good news for us because it makes the Communists happy.”

That’s the gist of what is going on in Czech Republic.

When the Communists seized Czechoslovakia in 1948, they confiscated all the property owned by churches. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the country became a liberal democracy and in 1993 split into the independent Czech Republic and Slovakia. For years Christians in the country tried to get back their stolen lands. In 2012, the Czech government finally agreed to compensate the churches for what was stolen from them by the former Communist government.

Under the plan, according to the New York Times, the nation’s 17 churches, including the Roman Catholic and Protestant sects, would get back 56 percent of their old property now held by the state—estimated at the time to be worth $3.7 billion. Then, over the next three decades, the churches would also get $2.9 billion.

Now, the AP reports that 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.

Not surprisingly, the proposal came from the Communist Party. The Communists steal the property and then, when they are forced to give it back, try to steal some of it back again.

As Father Stanislav Přibyl, the secretary general of the Czech Bishops’ Conference, says in the AP story, the restitution is “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.” Přibyl says the Communist Party and its allies are trying to justify their original confiscations by “this attempt at taxation.”

Přibyl added that 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.

The situation in the Czech Republic is outrageous, but not at all surprising. As the old saying goes, “never get involved in a land war in Asia, never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line, and never trust the Commies to respect the rule of law.”

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).