THE INSTITUTE Releases Legislative Analysis on Recently Adopted Barbaric Religion Law in Hungary

31 07 2011

THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy today released an official analysis on legislation passed on July 14, 2011 by the Hungarian Parliament. This recently passed law contains provisions that create the most oppressive religion law and the most burdensome registration system in the entire OSCE region.

The legislation, when introduced, proposed a three-tiered system of registration for religious groups in Hungary. THE INSTITUTE published a detailed legal analysis immediately after the law was introduced noting that the content of the bill is not in keeping with international or European standards for human rights and religious freedom. Hungarian and international NGOs, scholars, religious leaders, and human rights advocates expressed agreement with THE INSTITUTE’s analysis and joined together to criticize the glaring human rights defects in the legislation.

Shockingly, rather than working to correct and remedy the shortcomings in the legislation, Parliament ignored the avalanche of international criticism that the legislation contravened human rights standards. Worse, about two hours before the final vote, without any prior notice, the Fidesz [ruling political party] delegation completely changed key provisions in the bill.

The most surprising and objectionable amendment to the bill introduced without adequate debate or reflection was the decision to remove a provision providing for judicial proceedings for “re-registration” of religious groups and to substitute a new provision stating that “the competent authority to recognize a religious organization is … the Parliament, with a two-thirds vote, rather than the courts or a ministry.”

This provision flouts clearly delineated human rights standards in religious registration cases developed by the European Court of Human Rights in a series of decisions over the last two decades. These standards mandate government neutrality, non-discrimination, religious pluralism and non-evaluation of religious belief.

In the INSTITUTE’S opinion, the Religion Law creates the most burdensome registration system in the entire OSCE region while codifying systematic discrimination of religious minorities.  The Religion Law is completely inconsistent with fundamental human rights as it contravenes the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

Click here to see the full analysis.


source: THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy

Is Anders Breivik a `Christian’ terrorist?

31 07 2011

By David Gibson for Religious News Services on 29 Jul 2011

The mass murders in Oslo have raised a host of agonizing questions, but few have such an ancient lineage and contemporary resonance as whether Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist behind the attacks that killed 76 Norwegians last Friday (July 22), is a Christian.

Breivik claimed that he is a Christian in various forums, but most explicitly and in greatest detail in the 1,500-page manifesto he compiled over several months and posted on the Internet.

“At the age of 15 I chose to be baptised [sic] and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church,” the 32-year-old Breivik wrote. “I consider myself to be 100 percent Christian.”

But he also fiercely disagrees with the politics of most Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church. “Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man,” he writes. “I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.”

Breivik fashions himself a “cultural Christian” and a modern-day crusader in a resurrected order of the medieval Knights Templar, riding out to do battle against squishy “multiculturalism” and the onslaught of “Islamization”—and to suffer the glory of Christian martyrdom in the process.

Not surprisingly, conservative pundits who share some of Breivik’s views and also consider themselves Christians quickly sought to distance themselves from Breivik by declaring, as Bill O’Reilly did on Fox News, that “Breivik is not a Christian.” “That’s impossible,” O’Reilly said Tuesday. “No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder. The man might have called himself a Christian on the ‘net, but he is certainly not of that faith.” O’Reilly blamed the “liberal media” for “pushing the Christian angle” in order to demean Christians like himself. But O’Reilly’s point was taken up by any number of commentators and religion scholars.

Mathew N. Schmalz, a professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross, wrote in a Washington Post column that Breivik’s vision “is a Christianity without Christ” because the attacker rejected a personal relationship with Jesus. Writing in The Guardian, Andrew Brown wrote that “even in his saner moments (Breivik’s) ideology had nothing to do with Christianity but was based on an atavistic horror of Muslims and a loathing of `Marxists,’ by which he meant anyone to the left of Genghis Khan.”

Arne H. Fjeldstad, a longtime Norwegian journalist and Lutheran minister of the Church of Norway, wrote a lengthy analysis of Breivik’s references to Christianity and also concluded that “his view is framed entirely by politics, with strong political and cultural opinions, which also include religious views. Breivik’s religious position is rather distant from any Christian faith commitment,” Fjeldstad wrote.

But others pushed back against such a carefully cordoned-off interpretation of Breivik’s faith, or Christianity itself. “If he did what he has alleged to have done, Anders Breivik is a Christian terrorist,” Boston University religion scholar Stephen Prothero wrote on

“Yes, he twisted the Christian tradition in directions most Christians would not countenance. But he rooted his hate and his terrorism in Christian thought and Christian history, particularly the history of the medieval Crusades against Muslims, and current efforts to renew that clash.”

source: ISKCON News

Belgium’s new burqa ban challenged in court

30 07 2011

A burqa and niqab ban came into force in Belgium on Saturday with the threat of fines and jail time, but the law faced an immediate court challenge from two women who wear the full Islamic veil.

Belgium joined France as the second European Union nation to enforce such a ban. The Belgian law, which prohibits people from wearing anything that hides their face in public places, was approved unanimously by the parliament in April.

Offenders will face a fine of 137.50 euros ($197) and up to seven days behind bars. Two Muslim women who wear full veils decided Friday to challenge the ban in the country’s constitutional court, Belgian media reported. “We consider the law as a disproportionate intrusion into fundamental rights such as the freedom of religion and expression,” Ines Wouters, the women’s lawyer, was quoted as saying in the newspaper La Libre.

“This measure is discriminatory,” Wouters said.

France — home to Europe’s biggest Muslim population — became the first EU country to ban the burqa on April 11. In France, a woman who repeatedly insists on appearing veiled in public can be fined 150 euros and ordered to attend re-education classes.

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, criticised burqa and niqab bans this week, saying such measures threaten to exclude women rather than liberating them.

“In fact, the banning may run counter to European human rights standards, in particular the right to respect for one’s private life and personal identity,” he said.

“The way the dress of a small number of women has been portrayed as a key problem requiring urgent discussion and legislation is a sad capitulation to the prejudices of the xenophobes.”

source: THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy

Hungarian Parliament Resurrects Soviet Past with Midnight Adoption of Europe’s Most Restrictive Religion Law

29 07 2011

While Communism officially ended in Hungary over 20 years ago, it appears the dictatorial mindset has not yet fully abated


On July 12, after midnight, the Hungarian parliament procured for the country the title of Worst Religion Law in Europe when it adopted its new “Law on the Right toFreedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Communities”.

“I am both saddened and disappointed by the adoption of such a draconian law,” commented THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy’s Founder and Chairman, Joseph K. Grieboski. “I have known and worked closely with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, most recently on the new constitution, and expected much more from him. The law is a danger to all Hungarian society and a terrible indication of the state of democracy in the country.”

As the Pastor of an evangelical Church noted on passage of the bill: “This is the greatest discrimination against evangelical Christians since the fall of Communism. This is just the first step against real, active, Bible-believing Christian groups. During Communism we were oppressed and persecuted, but we didn’t expect the same from a so-called ‘Christian’ government.”

Over one hundred currently registered religious organizations will be retroactively stripped of their status as religious communities and “de-registered” as religious organizations, losing key rights and privileges provided to registered Churches. Only fourteen religious organizations will retain their registration status, while all others in the country will be forced to reregister.

Religious organizations that have been “de-registered” may not use the name “Church” and will also lose their status as a religious organization if they are not “re-registered” through burdensome proceedings. In addition, “re-registration” can only occur if a minority religious community meets onerous duration levels designed to suppress minority religious freedom in complete contravention of European Human Rights Court’s and OSCE’s standards.

The amendments added to the legislation further restrict the rights of religious communities in Hungary by imposing illegal national security restrictions. Such amendments violate fundamental international human rights law and international human rights instruments that Hungary has signed and ratified. Under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), national security does not form a proper basis to impose restrictions on religious freedom. National Security is consistently excluded from the list of permissible grounds for restricting freedom of religion in all major international interests.

According to the most surprising amendment, the competent authority to recognize a religious organization is now the parliament, with a two-third vote, rather than the courts or a ministry. A religious organization seeking recognition must now request the registration from the Minister who will initiate the request to the parliament. After the two-thirds vote by parliament, the religious organization is added to the list of recognized religions and an order is sent to the Court to register the organization within 30 days.

In January 2011, twenty-four members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States (Monitoring Committee) signed a Motion for a Resolution entitled “Serious Setbacks in the Fields of the Rule of Law and Human Rights in Hungary.” The Resolution expressed the Parliamentary Assembly members “serious concern with respect to recent developments related to the rule of law, human rights and the functioning of democratic institutions in Hungary.” Last week, two Co-Rapporteurs from the Council of Europe traveled to Hungary to investigate these serious setbacks in human rights in Hungary and to report to the Monitoring Committee as to whether a formal human rights monitoring procedure should be initiated.

The passage of this draconian Religion Law is the latest and most disturbing example of this serious setback of human rights and the rule of law in Hungary. The legislation contravenes OSCE, European Union, Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights and United Nations standards because it clearly discriminates against minority religious groups.

Today, THE INSTITUTE once again urges the Monitoring Committee to take action to initiate a human rights monitoring procedure to ensure compliance by Hungary with the Human Rights Convention and other Council international instruments that it has signed and ratified.

“In the midst of celebrating the break from its Soviet past by crafting a new constitution, erecting a statute of Ronald Reagan, and opening the Tom Lantos Human Rights Institute, the Government of Hungary has thrust the nation back into a system of repressive and restrictive legislation with this new law,” Mr. Grieboski commented. “My only hope is that similar to the case of the media law in January, the Government will realize the terrible mistake it has made and return the law to Parliament for revision, and ideally put it in line with international and European human rights standards.”

source: THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy


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