Government of Slovakia recognizes the Baha'i Faith

13 May 2007

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — The government of Slovakia has officially registered the Baha'i Faith as a religious community, guaranteeing the group the right to own property, observe holy days, disseminate literature and engage in a host of other activities.

The recognition was the result of an application submitted by the Baha'is which was supported by signatures of some 28,000 residents of the country.

"The registration will enable us to more effectively help and serve all Slovak residents and make our programs more accessible to both children and adults," Jitka Spillerova, a spokeswoman for the Slovakian Baha'is, said. "The state guarantees registered churches and religious communities the legal status and possibility of functioning in public life."

Recognition by the state also allows a religion to request government funds, but Mrs. Spillerova said the Baha'is will not request such money now or in the future because their activities are financed strictly through voluntary contributions of enrolled members.

"We would like to thank the thousands of people who supported our registration," Mrs. Spillerova said.

The law governing the recognition of a religious community bestows the right to become a legal corporation; for adherents to teach their faith to others, including as religious education in schools; to have their own schools and universities; to hold meetings without informing the authorities; to operate certain social or cultural establishments, including hospitals; to publish literature; and generally to carry out activities throughout the greater society.

Jan Juran, part of the government office involved in reviewing applications for recognition, said factors include not only whether a religious group is law-abiding and promotes good health and morality but also whether the religion supports humanitarian principles and tolerance of others.

Mrs. Spillerova noted that Baha'i belief includes respect for other religions and appreciation of diverse cultures. She said activities of the Slovakian Baha'i community include programs of moral education for children and youth, study courses for adults, and devotional meetings for people of every belief.

"Our intention is to create an opportunity for people to pause in their daily rush and think about the timeless truths that are taught by all the world's religions and how people can apply these truths in their life," she said.

The Baha'i Faith has had followers in what is now Slovakia since the early 20th century. It joins 17 other religious communities – the others are Christian or Jewish – currently recognized by the government.