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Persecution of Churches and Believers under the Communist Regime in Slovakia PDF Print E-mail

Zuzana Kusa
Slovak Academy of Sciences

delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on 
"Religious Freedom and the New Millenium"
Washington DC, April 17-19, 1998

After the February coup in 1948, the communist regime aimed at total control over the ecclesiastical sphere. The church was perceived as a potential strong adversary of the communist regime. This was not only because the Slovak population was strongly religious (in the 1950 census, only 0.51 percent of the population claimed they had no confession; 71.6 percent were Roman Catholics, 6.42 percent were Greek Catholics, 12.02 percent Lutherans, 4.38 percent Reformed Church, and 4.10 percent Jewish). A long tradition of religious associations, firm trust in local church leaders, and the church’s ability to mobilize and integrate the local community made it a potential hindrance to manipulation of the masses.

High West-East tensions during the Cold War made communist leaders suspicious of the international ties of Slovak churches (first to the Vatican and then to international centers of the Protestant churches). These suspicions led to accusations of espionage and treason against many church leaders who maintained (in reality or supposedly) contacts with foreign ecclesiastical centers.

Political trials and repression were, in the politics of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, well-thought-out measures aimed at criminalizing political opponents and intimidating individuals and social groups in the period of implementing substantial economic and political changes. As Stefansky puts it, they also fulfilled the function of “revealing” the causes of failures and hardships in all domains of life. Exaggeration of the activities of domestic and foreign adversaries served to justify the large number of political trials. Several treasonous groups (not obedient believers) were accused of a connection with fascist exiles. Emigration was defined in the penal code as high treason.

The State and the Catholic Church in the early 1950s

The history of repression of Catholic and Protestant churches in the early 1950s has been meticulously documented by historians (Peek, Barnovsk, 1997). Besides this, there are several autobiographical books published by persecuted pastors (for instance, Uhorskai Pavel, 1992), representatives of lay activists of the underground Catholic Church (Mikloko, 1990; Arnogursky, 1997), or representatives of Catholic emigration (Hlinka, 1990). Especially Mikloko’s and Hlinka’s books were conceived as a chronicle of the persecution of the Catholic Church and believers. Of special contribution is George Weigel’s book The Final Revolution, which analyzes the relation between the fall of communism and church resistance in several former communist countries.

It should be mentioned that the majority of the books documenting the events of the 1950s were written by church activists. Therefore, they do not offer a complex picture of this (or a later) period. They usually concentrate on a description of the situation of their own church and directly or indirectly neglect the persecution of other churches or religious communities.

Sometimes there is a tendency (for instance, Hlinka, Arnogursky) to underestimate the sufferings of “rival” religious communities and promote the view that other churches (for instance, the Lutheran Church) enjoyed more favorable conditions or even the support of the communist state. The mutual mistrust inherited from past centuries (there were several religious rebellions during the Hapsburg monarchy) did not weaken under socialism. Even now it is a hindrance in achieving mutual tolerance and extending understanding of religious freedom. Such mistrust is now especially linked to new religious movements, which are labeled sects not only by “ignorant” lay people but also by church pastors. They consider them to be not desirable competitors on the already saturated “religious market.”

Let me return to the hard period of the 1950s. In the eyes of the communist regime, the Catholic Church symbolized a connection to the Slovak war republic that was strongly subordinated to fascist Germany and applied its nonhuman racial politics. There were also some (partly substantiated) fears of the renewal of separatist ideas.

To weaken the influence of the churches, mainly the Catholic one, legislation was passed concerning the right to gather and associate. The aim was to establish a new type of socialist gathering in state-controlled organizations.

The new communist strategy toward the church as a potential source of resistance was intended to break the churches’ institutional network wherever possible and to control (through a combination of legal restrictions and co-opting) whatever was left. The communists were also eager to sever the Catholic Church’s lifeline to Rome, and the apostolic nuncio was, accordingly, expelled.

Events in Czechoslovakia and Central/Eastern Europe

Czechoslovakia stopped the majority of religious presses, took measures against church schools, and forced the Holy See in Rome to issue an excommunication decree on July 1, 1949. All Catholics who voluntarily became members, promoters, and popularizers of communist parties and their ideology were threatened with excommunication.

A landmark in the relations of church and state in Czechoslovakia came on October 14, 1949. On this day, the National Assembly passed “new” church laws. The State Department for Ecclesiastical Affairs was established. The act dealt with the economic foundation of the church. By systematic implementation of these legal norms, the organization, freedom, and spiritual authority of the churches were undermined. Until the very end of the communist regime, the State Department for Ecclesiastical Affairs supervised all church activities, controlled them, and made all the decisions related to church life.

The End of the Greek Catholic Church

In the Carpatho-Ruthenian districts of eastern Slovakia, the Greek Catholic Church was wholly suppressed in 1950 after forcible attempts to merge these Byzantine-rite Catholics into the Orthodox Church. The Rusyns’ one bishop, Pavol Gojdi , died in Leopoldov prison in 1960.

The attempts to weaken the Catholic Church ended in the liquidation of the monasteries—“the practical abolition of the men’s and the drastic restriction of the women’s orders.’’

In its fight against the church the communist regime used Article 178 of the criminal code, according to which “the clergy can carry out their ministry only with the prior approval of the state.” Under Article 178, clergy were “licensed” as employees of the state; revocation of a license meant that a priest could no longer function publicly and had to seek some other form of employment, lest he be arrested for parasitism.

Students for the priesthood could attend a seminary only with state permission, and pressure was brought to bear on secondary school teachers who might be inclined to approve such an application for a local student.

Numerous priests and pastors were arrested in the 1950s. Hlinka says that though many of these priests were granted an amnesty on the 15th anniversary of the end of the Second World War (May 9, 1960), they were not allowed to continue their pastoral work. They had to employ themselves in “industrial production” as unskilled laborers.

Religious Education

According to Atkuliak, since the early 1950s believing teachers were frequently dismissed from school. Ecclesiastical departments demanded that school headquarters give opportunity to teach philosophy, civics, and history only to those professors who gave an “absolute guarantee” that these subjects would be interpreted and taught in the “people’s democratic spirit.” This request resulted in the dismissal of 62 priests from schools. Believing teachers were pressed to leave the church. In the Nitra district alone, 101 nuns who worked in kindergartens were dismissed. By Husák’s order to fill all posts (with the exception of religion) with civilian teachers, 370 nuns were dismissed from their work in schools in June 1950.

In 1953, religious education was canceled as part of a standard education (religion was officially characterized as “obscurantism and superstition”). The possibility of religious education demanded public agreement of both the pupil’s parents in front of the headmaster. For instance, in the years 1968 to 1972, some 70 percent of Slovak students were still going to religious instruction. In 1970 the Parish of Bratislava-Blumenthal had 4,000 children registered for religious instruction, but in 1975 (the “normalization” period) only 40. In the 1970s schools would not employ a believing teacher who publicly adhered to his religion, went to church services, and sent his children for religious instruction. The methods the school administration used to discourage students from adhering to their religion were “clear from some questionnaires which students had to fill in or had to underline what they considered the correct answer.” Parents’ employment and careers depended on their declining to request religious education for their children, and parents who did so request knew that they were thereby constraining their children’s educational and professional opportunities as well as their own.

This statement is partly a simplification. It was not true that “everyone knew about the connection between public claims of one’s religion (attending church services, religious education, baptizing children) and educational opportunities. My research of traditional village poverty in Slovakia revealed that, though the communist regime declared “the leading role of the working class”, and that its chief purpose was “to raise the working class and to abolish social differences, it did not create real opportunities for them to use the educational system as an upward mobility channel. Compulsory school attendance was limited to eight years of basic school until 1984, but vocational counseling was not part of teachers’ duties. Moreover, the working class (industry and agriculture) was very religious. People with marginal positions in the labor market were not as controlled and “forced to abandon their faith” as professionals were. However, on application forms there was a box for worldview. Claiming an atheistic worldview was in most cases necessary to receive the school headquarters’ approval for further study. Most people interviewed did not perceive the fatal relation between the future of their children (who were expected to stay in the village and work at a nearby factory) and openly claiming their faith. Only two of the interviewed people who applied for secondary school in the families under study realized that the teacher’s information “takes lessons on religion” on their application form canceled their chances for the study though they had excellent marks in school.

According to Hlinka’s sources, in some Slovak towns the local communist representatives did not allow entrance to secondary school for any applicant who went to religious education. In Trnava basic school, the pupils had to fill out a questionnaire about their religious life that was not anonymous. They were directly instructed by the headmaster that the way they filled out the questionnaire was crucial for their chance to study at secondary school. As a result, 90 percent of the pupils claimed they had a materialist, atheist worldview. This was the way children learned to hide their real beliefs and that hypocrisy was a form of civic behavior.

Strategies of Persecuted Families

In my project “The 20th Century in Slovak Intelligentsia Families,” I interviewed many people who were very religious (Lutheran) about their life in the period of the totalitarian regime. I devoted special attention to how family members described their family’s social decline caused by measures the communist regime took against members of the former “ruling class” (loss of job or property, imprisonment, etc.), especially strategies of families who went over.

It became clear that substantial support in critical moments was obtained from the families’ social networks. This included not only feelings of kinship developed among members of the Slovak evangelic intelligentsia, but also ties based on schoolmate solidarity, “fellow countrymen” cohesion, often combined with confessional solidarity. It turned out to be clear that these ties linked multi-contextually the members of the former elite with representatives of the communist regime. Such findings indirectly support Hlinka’s statement that denominational solidarity of the Lutheran Church under socialism was directed first not at the religious life but at social support and career promotion (or at least sustainability of the workplace).

The life histories contain many examples of help, payback, or at least attempts to pay back. I will mention only those connected to the issue of freedom of religion.“During the Second World War I entered work at Academy Editorials. Professor Novak took me on. He was a very liberal man. He knew that I was not a supporter of the (Catholic) regime and that my brother Ivan was arrested in Germany. Moreover he asked the German institutions to set him free. Also during the uprising, when German troops were coming and I had to hide, he gave me money to help me survive some months. He also helped other people. Novak helped to free the linguist Ladisiav uimono vit’, a well-known communist who was arrested during the war. Later he secretly gave him various jobs to earn his living. I did not forget it, and when Novak in the 1950s was accused of collaboration with the Vatican, I sent a letter of support to the court.”

It seems that the precondition of a “normal” working career for people with “unreliable” origin (or public adherence to their religion) was a conscious effort to furnish proof of extraordinary competence, preferably “unattractive and complex” work, and deliberate self-restraint in aspirations for promotions (that is, avoiding competition with party men).

“I think the cause of all troubles was that my father was too honest and unable to compromise. They [party functionaries] invited him many times to join their drinking bouts, but my father refused. He said he would not drink with somebody who misused money and the like. Unfortunately, he showed them openly that he held them in contempt. If he joined, if he were amicable to them, he could have avoided his long-term imprisonment.”It is apparent that good personal relations played a decisive role. But we can also discern the importance of proficiency in proper ideological rhetoric. It seems that it was necessary to find suitable arguments, arguments that vindicated help to an “unreliable” person, and, at the same time, that were in harmony with a “generally valid ideological thesis.” We can see in the next example an argument that promoted only values shared in the past could be of little value in negotiation.

“When my oldest son, an excellent pupil, finished elementary school, I wished for him to study at secondary school. The director of the local secondary school was, by chance, known to me from religious summer camps. He came from Modra but was, unfortunately, wholly sucked up by Marxist-Leninist theory. When I came to school to have a talk with him, I told him: “You’ve got an evangelical origin and your mother was a strong worshiper. How could you throw all that out?” But he told me that he believed in Marxist-Leninism. It was impossible to speak with him. He claimed in advance that my son would not be received because my husband—he was imprisoned—and his brother, who had emigrated, are enemies of socialism.

“So my son was not admitted to secondary school. We knew there was a place at the secondary school of nuclear physics in Prague. It was the only school of that type in Czechoslovakia, and there were quotas for Slovak students. So he applied there. He was admitted and graduated successfully. Then he applied to the University in Prague but was not admitted because of their opinion of our family’s character. So then Dalo Krno, my brother in law, “was operative.” His opinion still carried a certain weight; he had built up the Faculty of Journalism and had certain contacts. He somehow protested the awards my husband received for his participation in the Slovak uprising. As a result, my son was admitted at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics in Bratislava.”

We see that the next family member was a high-ranking party official. Because of his position (university dignitary) and credentials (developed socialistic journalism), he got an approach to special information (the possibility of study in Prague). He intervened on behalf of his nephew. He also used the “right” arguments (participation in the Slovak uprising was again “in fashion” by the end of 1950s.) In the mid-50s it served as a reason for being accused of “bourgeois nationalism”, in negotiation about the entrance of his nephew at the university. The following illustration of the party man shows the kinds of useful reasoning in such a case.

My research shows that the opportunities for children from religious families differed. I met at the Faculty the evangelical vicar from my native town. He stood there as a picture of misery. I asked him, “What are you doing here, vicar?” He told me that he was waiting for Professor M., because his daughter was not admitted to study at the Faculty of Economics, though she had the best results on the entrance examinations. I asked him why she was not admitted, and he said, “you know it; she is the vicar’s daughter.” I immediately decided to visit the dean of the Faculty of Economics. I knew him from party meetings. Moreover, I was in charge of the verification commission checking the reliability of party men at his Faculty. I was very upset. I visited the dean and asked him about the reasons of Luba’s refusal. He told me that because of the present ideological situation he could not allow children from ideologically dubious families to enter the university. I told him, “What the devil! Do you think that if the vicar’s daughter or son became an economist, our economy would be ruined?” I reminded him of party verifications where we proscribed right-wing extremists. I asked him if we were going now to be left-wing extremists and warned him the party had to be watchful of any deviation, right or left. Finally the dean, his face dark red, signed the certification of Luba’s admission.

In spite of the viewpoint of the university’s hierarchy that the dean’s position was superior to Mr. Jozef Heger’s, they were on equal level in the Communist Party’s hierarchy. As we see, he could afford to visit the dean “immediately.” That means, “without asking for permission” and even to speak with raised voice. Probably Mr. Heger’s membership in the (much-feared) verification commission placed him higher than the dean. There is no doubt that his intensive involvement in party life equipped Mr. Heger with a considerable stock of ideologically correct statements utilizable in negotiations. Collected evidence of the crucial impact that high-ranking officials could have on behalf of their “unreliable” proteges suggests that sacred “strict party line” was strict partially by reputation. The documented possibility of negotiation about party instructions implies that these instructions might often be the local officials’ interpretation of general “party line” (for instance, the need “to guard the ideological purity of students”) that had not been put in written form in a list of detailed rules. It seems that the “party line” was rather a set of basic ideological statements included in top party officials’ addresses delivered at party congresses and conferences that—it was also “generally” demanded— should be “creatively applied in concrete situations.” It seems that at least some of the measures taken against people with an “unreliable” past (or worldview) depended directly on how the officials interpreted the “party line” in a given situation.

“We moved after my father’s imprisonment (in 1963) to Bratislava. I couldn’t get any work, though I did my best. My brother finished two years of vocational training, but he had heart pain and couldn’t do manual work. One day, my mother decided to visit the first secretary of the communist party, Lenart. She told him everything about the situation of our family. Lenart came from the same village as our family and had attended the same class as my mother’s brother. My grandfather had taught him religion. So they knew each other a bit. Lenárt knew our father’s case. He said, “Of course, I will make provisions for arranging a flat for you, a car for you, studies and work for your children. But I cannot let your husband out of prison” And my mother told him, “Please, arrange at once for my children’s studies.” Then my brother begun to study at secondary school (gymnasium); just at that time there was an opening to work in the city library, and they hired me. I remember how people in the library gazed on me; they thought I was some very privileged communist family’s child to get this work directly on an order from the Central Committee’s secretary. Only later did they realize that, though it was true that the first secretary had a finger in it, it was quite different with me, the supposedly communist elite child.”

Why did the first secretary interpret the criminal law that way? Many others lost their jobs, could not find any job at all, or had no possibility to enter university studies, only because they were kin to an “unreliable” person. Unclear and ambiguous rules yielded space for exercising a certain degree of free will in their interpretation. For superiors, it was no difficult problem to detect people as “unreliable” if they held an office that was envied by men whom they liked or were committed to. On the other hand, the interpretative latitude also allowed the possibility to protect people from dismissal or preserve them in their workplace despite disapproval “from above.” An ambition to foresee and meet the high-ranking party officials’ approval, to comply with their suspected demands for ideological purity beforehand and on one’s own initiative, could be amplified by one’s own uneasiness, by feeling uncertainty with one’s office. Such cases are apparent in collected life histories related to the issue of helping children from “unreliable” families be admitted to secondary schools or university studies.

Writing a letter of recommendation was certainly less risky than sheltering someone from dismissal, because it was free of possible clashes of private interests (aspirations for a position occupied by an “unreliable” person). Contradictory proceedings of headmasters of secondary schools toward children from “unreliable” families during the same period, described in collected family histories, gave additional evidence of free will in interpreting of party directions.

“My niece was always an excellent student. But once, in the last year of her secondary school studies, the class master entered the room and asked students to stand up if they had “not dealt with the question of religiosity.” It was in the late fifties, and those years were actually hard years. My niece stood up first. After awhile, the next girl joined her. She passed the examination with honors but was not given a letter of recommendation to apply to the university. Instead, she was given a job in a brick kiln.”

“When they imprisoned my husband, my daughter could not go to secondary school. They did not want to admit her to any school, not even a vocational one. I decided that she had “to get lost in Bratis1ava, in crowds of peop1e. We had a good friend in Bratislava who taught at a secondary school. She told her head master that our family had such and such affairs and that my daughter was a good pupil but could not enter any type of secondary school. The headmaster said, “Let her come here, we will teach her.” So she studied in Bratislava and graduated there.”

In two similar cases, the harder case (imprisonment of the father) could be overcome, while the easier one (religiosity) remained (for a few years) an insurmountable stigma. We see that in the former case personal ties were at work.

However, life histories also offer several examples of the failure of personal networks, mainly where they included “inmobilizable” members. They could be, as was mentioned above, people who themselves had a “peccadillo” in their personal lives: origin, lack of education, participation in the fascist party in the war period, etc. Their protection of “unreliable” persons could evoke undesirable interest in their own reliability, resulting in their being labeled “unreliable,” too. It seems that not only personal ties with a high-ranking network member but also such an old-fashioned item as the “righteous character” of an influential person could be included among “variables” that had an impact on decision making in favor of “unreliable” people or their children. A “righteous character” seems to be a crucial precondition for going into negotiations with party officials. But such a resolution could easily turn out to be an empty risk (a Don Quixote-type fight) without having a firm background. The firmness of one’s position did not derive only from its place in the party hierarchy, but, as we could see, also from real or reputed contacts with the political elite. On the other hand, in collected family histories of documented situations in which “unreliable” people asked for help, it did not take the form of an interaction between deferential people and bosses. The request for help occurred between persons who seemed to be in equal positions. The “petitioner” behaved as if their past relation continued without any interruption, as if he was still the leader of a playing group, the member of a family that helped the poor boy from the neighborhood, the older relative who deserved respect, etc. His request relied upon the common and generally acceptable obligation to help one’s friends.

Situation in the Years 1968-1970

In 1968, the Slovak Ministry of Culture allowed restoration of the Greek Catholic Church. That same year, the Communist Party also allowed nuns to return to Slovakia (they were evicted mostly to Czech lands in the early 1950s and worked as unskilled laborers on agricultural farms). They were allowed to teach religion at schools, to work in hospitals and centers for disabled people. Both Catholic and Lutheran Churches started to revive their activities and restore their organizational structures. The Catholic Church was very active in organizing pilgrimages, for instance. In 1967, there were about 8,000 pilgrims to a tínske Straze pilgrimage (devoted to St. Mary); in June 1968 there were already 60,000 pilgrims.

This period was at the same time a period of rehabilitation of unjustly persecuted pastors or efforts to rehabilitate them. In the documents included in Uhorskai’s autobiography (it was originally written in 1978 but had no chance to be published), there is a letter addressed to the Ministry of Culture in 1969 mentioning that more than 30 percent of Lutheran pastors in the 1950s and ‘60s were arrested or persecuted in some way (loss of state approval of their work).

In the period of “political thaw” in 1968 and ‘69, “working” pastors could resume their pastoring. The number of pupils attending religious instructions considerably increased. There was a possibility to obtain religious literature from abroad legally. Many new churches were built.

Normalization Period (1969-1989)

Information about the oppression of religious life in Slovakia (Czechoslovakia) was more available during the last 20 years of the communist regime. Despite the risks, Western institutions were quite well informed about them. There were many articles and books published in the West by Westerners as well as Slovak authors about persecution of believers (and, generally, about the violation of human rights). Slovak people could be informed about the situation only from foreign broadcasting (especially Radio Free Europe and Voice of America). One of the influential documents of this kind is a memorandum on the violation of human rights in Slovakia (presented to the president of the United States by the Slovak World Congress in 1978).

The authors documented that the state police carry out their searches at the residences not only of priests but of the faithful laity. They introduced the case of Professor Grof in Senec near Bratislava, who was incarcerated with 30 students from the Pedagological Faculty in Trnava. After the investigation they were released, but they were under constant police surveillance.

Mikloko, a lay activist in the clandestine Catholic Church, gives in his book (1992) an overview of the arrest of priests and lay believers in the period from 1969 to 1989. There were 24 trials of Catholic priests, 1 trial with four Baptists, and 1 trial with two Lutherans (an organization of believers in a cottage in the countryside). He later states that the greatest and strictest anti-religious trial in Slovakia was held in 1974 in Bratislava against a group of so-called principal people. Eighteen persons were accused of paragraph 98 (subversion of the republic) and sentenced for forty years and six months unconditionally and for four years and nine months conditionally. It is worth mentioning that the information about this process was published in Jan Arnogursk’s articles published abroad in the 1980s but was not included in Arnogursk’s recent collection of works written before 1989 that deal solely with repression of the Catholic Church and Catholic lay believers.

According to Hlinka, there was a rapid decline in the number of students enrolled in religious education. In 1976 the services of pastors in hospitals (to dying people) were declared illegal without a previous application to the Ecclesiastical Department and the state’s agreement.

Thus, the situation by the late 1970s was grim in the extreme. An underground church was alive and vigorous, if under constant pressure, especially in Slovakia. But a “legal” church was both penetrated and manipulated. The machinations of Pacem in Terris and of bishops perceived as excessively acquiescent to the state strained relations between the formal ecclesiastical leadership and lay activists. Serious religious education had been denied to two generations of Czechs and Slovaks, and Catholic intellectual life was almost wholly clandestine.

On July 5, 1985, some 150,000 to 200,000 Catholic pilgrims came to Velehrad to mark the 1,100th anniversary of the death of St. Methodius.

The 1988-89 petition (whose 31 points spelled out the implications for Czechoslovakia of the fundamental democratic principle of the separation of church and state) was a watershed event in the “pre-revolution”—the events and the moral reawakening that finally gave birth to the Velvet Revolution. It had garnered some 600,000 signatures by late 1989. It was also a kind of recall vote measuring people’s attitudes toward Husák on “normalization” and the communist state. Protestants and nonbelievers joined Catholics in registering an overwhelming rejection of the regime’s lies and repressions. On March 25, 1988, a peaceful public rally, “The Good Friday of Bratislava,” was attacked by police.

Information about the State of Religiosity—Censuses

Despite the strict control of religious life by the state organs, religion (denomination) was not included on the census forms in 1960, 1971, or 1980! In the 1991 census, religion was included for the first time since 1950. We can guess that the communist regime was afraid of revealing the great proportion of believers (especially Catholics). However, as Hlinka recorded, in 1972 the Institute for Sociology organized a survey of religiosity. A high proportion of interviewed people admitted religious belief (above 72 percent.) There is no documentation of this research in the Institute for Sociology, though three older colleagues confirmed that this research was done. Nobody knows, however, what happened to the research report.

Since the communists could not convince people with their political arguments (the totalitarianism frightens people away), “they turn to uncultured brutality and vulgarity in their struggle against God. They fear what they themselves do not believe—they struggle against what in their judgement does not exist” (Memorandum of 1978).

Relations between Church and State after Communism

During the communist regime the legal system was free of any impact of the church (of any denomination) and the state was the protector of the exclusive worldview (materialism, atheism, for instance). The communist daily Pravda wrote on September 17, 1976, that “atheistic education is a fundamental element in educating a new worldview.” It would seem that after 1989 it would be sufficient to push the pendulum of state-versus-church relations to a neutral position. However, as the lawyer L. Kula shows, though the request for “consistent separation of church and state became the seventh point of the list of revolutionary requests of the People Against Violence movement in 1989, in January 1990 the question of the relations of church and state was narrowed (after a meeting of ecclesiastic representatives and members of the government) to the issue of the economic separation of church and state. State approval of the performance of pastoral functions, which had been considered the most important restriction of church activities, was definitely abolished.

The year 1991 gave birth to two important normative acts: First, a charter of basic human rights and freedoms, was introduced by constitutional law. Another act dealt with freedom of religious belief and the position of church and religious associations. The most substantial part of the act is part III, which deals with registration of churches and religious communities. As Kula states, the given (established) preconditions of the registration mean deepening and reconfirming inequalities between religious denominations. Inequality based on the “quantity of the membership of churches” became more apparent. The National Council of the Slovak Republic established the number of adult members of a church whose signatures are needed for registration as about 20,000. The result is that the traditional churches create an exclusive confessional club of churches supported by the state, because this act classifies churches and religious societies in two categories. The first are churches recognized by the state that have (because of the number of believers) economic support from the government and other advantages (for instance, in taxation). The second category is societies and associations of believers that are not recognized by the state as churches and may register only as civic associations, without any advantages and support similar to those given to religious associations in the first category.