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Religion and Secularism in the European Union

State of Affairs and Current Debates

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Edited By Jan Nelis, Caroline Sägesser and Jean-Philippe Schreiber

The present volume monitors new developments concerning religious issues, faith-based organizations, State-Church relations and secularism in the EU, which especially during the past two decades have undergone profound changes, changes which continuously and increasingly alter mentalities and habits, whether belief-related or not. In this collective work, authors develop the major themes that are relevant to their country of expertise, while a final chapter is devoted to the role of the European Courts (ECHR and EU). The different chapters show that in recent years, religion, once thought to be of minor importance in a highly secular society, has made quite a vigorous political comeback. Thus Europe seems to have reached a crucial point in its history, a moment in which future tendencies in the field of religion and secularism are being defined, and negotiated. There is little doubt that the outcome of this process will influence the continent’s future outlook, as well as its role and relevance in an increasingly globalized world.

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The Czech Republic. New Challenges for Churches in a Highly Secularized Society (Roman Vido)

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The Czech Republic

New Challenges for Churches in a Highly Secularized Society

Roman VIDO

Masaryk University

The history of Christianity in Czech lands goes back to the 9th century when prince Bořivoj I was baptized. In the early 15th century, Jan Hus, a reformist priest and predecessor of the Protestant movement, was burned for heresy against Catholic doctrine. This initiated the Hussite movement (also known as the Czech Reformation) that introduced Protestantism into Czech lands. After 1620, the Habsburg-led Counter-Reformation strived for the suppression of Protestantism and the (largely successful) re-Catholization of the Czech population. From the late 18th century on, more space was opened for Protestant denominations; however, Catholicism remained the dominant religion in Czech lands.

In 1918, an independent secular State of Czechs and Slovaks was established, which was soon followed by the foundation of a national Czechoslovak Church (1920) by an ex-Catholic priest.1 The life of Churches and of the faithful was profoundly influenced by nearly 50 years of totalitarian regimes (Nazi in 1939-1945, Communist in 1948-1989), and characterized by various forms of persecution. With the fall of Communism in 1989, religious freedom and pluralism of worldviews returned to the Czech public sphere.

The institutional developments after 1989 have been basically derived from the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Liberties into the constitutional order of the Czech Republic (1993). An international general agreement between the Czech Republic...

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