The Council of Christian Churches in Slovenia (comprising the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Pentecostal Church) and the Islamic Community in the Republic of Slovenia express grave and serious concern regarding certain provisions of the Property Tax Law and attempts at wholesale modification of the Freedom of Religion Law.
We the undersigned communities of faith would like to inform and remind the public that the right to free exercise of religion enjoys special constitutional protection and cannot be either temporarily or permanently abridged or abolished by any means (Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, Article 16). The European Union also respects such constitutionally protected status for the freedom of religion. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union commits the EU to recognize the identity and special contribution of Churches and other communities of faith in its member states. The Treaty also engages the European Union to an open, transparent and continued dialog with Churches and other communities of faith.
The proposed new Property Tax Law contains a provision for levying taxes on sacral and other buildings and properties used for religious activities; this would present a severe financial burden on our communities of faith, which they would be unable to meet. The taxes would significantly increase the cost of upkeep of many buildings that are used for religious activities, particularly liturgy, and would lead to a direct abridgement and even abolishment of liturgical, educational and charitable activities in our communities of faith. They would force a sale of buildings intended for religious activities and activities of general welfare.
We understand the new Property Tax Law as a direct infringement on fundamental human rights: the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, the right to free assembly and association, the right of workers, including religious workers, to social protection and health care, and the right of these workers to equal access to programs of social welfare state on the territory of the Republic of Slovenia. We point out that the Law is discriminatory, as it subjects the faithful to double taxation, first as citizens and then as members of communities of faith. The entire burden of these property taxes will be borne by the faithful, if they wish to hold on to the liturgical and other buildings necessary for the realization of the constitutionally guaranteed right to free exercise of religion. We emphasize that no member state of the European Union and no other comparable democratic European state has a tax law of this kind; hence we consider it extremely inappropriate.
The Council of Christian Churches in Slovenia and the Islamic Community in the Republic of Slovenia appeal to the Government of the Republic of Slovenia to initiate immediately and without delay formal discussions with the Churches and other communities of faith regarding any legislative projects that concern the constitutional right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. We expect that the relevant provisions of the Property Tax Law and the modifications to the Freedom of Religion Law, which would adversely affect the freedom of functioning of the Churches and other communities of faith, will not be passed too quickly and unilaterally and without prior consultation with the Churches and other communities of faith, consistent with the spirit of the Slovenian Constitution and European Law.
The Council of Christian Churches
The Catholic Church The Evangelical Lutheran Church
Bishop Andrej Glavan, President of SBC Bishop Geza Filo
The Serbian Orthodox Church The Evangelical Pentecostal Church
Rev. Milan Duduković Superintendent Daniel Brkič
The Islamic Community
Mr. Nevzet Porić, Secretary of IC