Alkotmánybírósági indítvány az egyházügyi törvény egyes rendelkezései miatt

13 08 2012

Az alapvető jogok biztosának álláspontja szerint több ponton is ellentétesek a hatalommegosztás elvével, a tisztességes eljáráshoz való joggal, valamint jogorvoslathoz való joggal az egyházak elismerését szabályozó törvényi rendelkezések. Szabó Máté több vallási szervezet kezdeményezésének elemzése után az Alkotmánybírósághoz fordult.

A lelkiismereti és vallásszabadság jogáról, valamint az egyházak, vallásfelekezetek és vallási közösségek jogállásáról szóló törvény elődjét az Alkotmánybíróság közjogi érvénytelenségre hivatkozva 2011. december 19-én megsemmisítette. Az Országgyűlés ezt követően december 30-án fogadta el az új szabályozást, amely 2012. január 1-jén hatályba is lépett. Az ombudsman azonban Alaptörvény-ellenesnek találta a rendelkezések között azt, amely – a hatalmi ágak megosztásának alkotmányos alapelvét kikezdve – az Országgyűlés egyedi és megfellebbezhetetlen döntésétől teszi függővé az egyházi státusz megadását.

A vallásszabadsággal való szoros kapcsolat elengedhetetlenné teszi, hogy az egyház elismerésével, az egyházi státusz megadásával kapcsolatos döntés feleljen meg az alapjogokkal szemben támasztott összes garanciális követelménynek. Ha az egyházi státusz megadásánál a döntéshozót mérlegelési jog illeti meg, akkor törvényben kell szabályozni a mérlegelés szempontjait. Az ilyen elvek, rendelkezések hiányoznak a törvényből, és ez a döntéshozatalt politikai alkuk tárgyává teheti. Szükség lenne továbbá az elutasító döntés megindokolására is, de a törvény ebben az esetben sem ír elő indokolási kötelezettséget. Így nem tudhatjuk meg, mi az elutasítás alapja – állapította meg Szabó Máté. Az egyházi státuszról hozott döntéssel szemben pedig mindenképpen jogorvoslatot kell biztosítani és ez is hiányzik a jelenlegi szabályozásból.

A törvény ugyan meghatározza, hogy milyen feltételek fennállása esetén lehet kérelmezni az egyházi státuszt, a feltételeket teljesítő szervezeteknek azonban nem biztosít alanyi jogot ahhoz, hogy el is ismerjék őket egyházként. Az egyházi státusszal kapcsolatban ugyanis az Országgyűlés diszkrecionális jogkörben, azaz szabad mérlegelés alapján hozza meg a döntését, azt nem köteles indokolni és nem biztosított olyan jogorvoslati eszköz sem, amely az Alaptörvény értelmében annak minősülhetne.

Az ombudsman hangsúlyozza: az Országgyűlés Magyarország legfőbb népképviseleti szerve, amelyből következően az Országgyűlés olyan politikai fórum, amelynek elsődleges szerepe a törvényhozás, továbbá az Alaptörvényen és törvényen alapuló más politikai döntések meghozatala. A hatalmi ágak elválasztásának elve alapján az Országgyűlés nem láthat el olyan feladatot, amelynek során ad hoc jellegű, megfelelő alkotmányos garanciákat nélkülöző politikai döntést hoz az alapvető állampolgári jogok tekintetében.

Az indítvány a http://www.ajbh.hu/allam/jelentes/201202784Ai.rtf oldalon olvasható.

Forrás: Alapvető jogok biztosa





HUNGARY: The Ombudsman turned to the Constitutional Court because of the provisions of the Law on Churches

13 08 2012

BUDAPEST, August 13, 2012 – According to the opinion of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights the legal provisions regulating the recognition of churches are in contrary to the principle of separation of power, to the right to fair procedure and to the right to legal remedy. After analysing the initiatives of many religious organisations Szabó Máté turned to the Constitutional Court.

The Ombudsman finds the provision contrary to the Fundamental Law, which not considering the constitutional principle of separation of power among government branches allows the Parliament to decide by itself and  on church status recognition without the right to an appeal.

The close relation to freedom of religion makes it indispensable that the decision on the recognition of the church, on rendering the religious status meets all guarantees protecting fundamental rights. If it is at the discretion of the decision-maker to give the religious status, then the aspects of deliberation have to be regulated by Act. The Act lacks such principles and provisions. The refusal should be reasoned, but the Act also lacks the requirement of reasoning in case of refusal. Thus we would never learn the reason of the refusal – stated Szabó Máté. Legal remedy has to be guaranteed against the decision on church status and the current regulation lacks it.

The Ombudsman emphasises that on the basis of the principle of separation of power the Parliament cannot exercise tasks, during which it makes political decisions affecting fundamental civil rights without having appropriate constitutional guarantees.

Source: Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights





German court outlaws religious circumcision

27 06 2012

Members of the high priesthood place their hands to bless a baby
after a Rabbi performed a ceremonial circumcision (AFP/File, David Furst)

BERLIN — Circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm, a German court ruled Tuesday in a landmark decision that the Jewish community said trampled on parents’ religious rights.

The regional court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”, a judgement that is expected to set a legal precedent.

“The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised,” the court added.

The case was brought against a doctor in Cologne who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy on his parents’ wishes.

A few days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily. Prosecutors then charged the doctor with grievous bodily harm.

The doctor was acquitted by a lower court that judged he had acted within the law as the parents had given their consent.

On appeal, the regional court also acquitted the doctor but for different reasons.

The regional court upheld the original charge of grievous bodily harm but also ruled that the doctor was innocent as there was too much confusion on the legal situation around circumcision.

The court came down firmly against parents’ right to have the ritual performed on young children.

“The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision,” the court said. “This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs.”

The decision caused outrage in Germany’s Jewish community.

The head of the Central Committee of Jews, Dieter Graumann, said the ruling was “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination.”

The judgement was an “outrageous and insensitive act. Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for centuries,” added Graumann.

“This religious right is respected in every country in the world.”

Holm Putzke, a criminal law expert at the University of Passau, told the Financial Times Deutschland that the ruling was “enormously important for doctors because for the first time they have legal certainty.”

“Unlike many politicians, the court has not allowed itself to be scared off by charges of anti-Semitism or religious intolerance,” added Putzke.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that nearly one in three males under 15 is circumcised. In the United States, the operation is often performed for hygiene reasons on infants.

Thousands of young boys are circumcised every year in Germany, especially in the country’s large Jewish and Muslim communities.

The court specified that circumcision was not illegal if carried out for medical reasons.

© 2012 AFP




Open Letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban: “NO” to the new law on religions

12 04 2012

On April 8, European political weekly newspapers New Europe
published an Open letter
to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

 

We, the undersigned, wish to make our voices heard and our concerns expressed with regards to the Hungarian Act CCVI of 2011 on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities that restricts religious freedom.

The Act stripped Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and hundreds of other religious communities of their church status and forced them to undergo a highly arbitrary procedure should they wish to register as a religion.

Because of this legislation which we consider to be a violation of Hungarian Constitution and of fundamental human rights, dozens of religious denominations are deprived of fundamental rights they had acquired under the previous legislation:

  • they are not included in the category of religious communities which will go on enjoying the same rights as before and are exempt from re-registration;
  • they have to apply for re-registration and to this end to collect the personal data and the signatures of 1000 members instead of 100 previously;
  • they cannot re-register through a court proceeding as before but have to submit their application to the Parliament and need a 2/3 majority vote;
  • they have to go through a preliminary screening of a state authority (Ministry of Public Administration and Justice) implying an evaluation of their beliefs;
  • they have no legal redress in case of rejection but will have to apply for the status of “religious association” under the law governing civil associations (also under revision) and if they fail to do so, they will be liquidated and their assets nationalised ;
  • they will lose a number of tax exemption advantages while the registered communities will go on enjoying them;

The de-registration process will affect the support by religious groups to different communities and activities, including the care for homeless, the elderly, the poor, prisoners and minorities. It will affect amongst other things educational support, the provision of shelter and assistance to those disadvantaged in society as these religious communities will no longer have the proper legal framework from which to operate.

The Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship founded and led by Methodist Pastor Gabor Ivanyi, which provides food and shelter for some thousands of homeless people, lost its church status and is not entitled anymore for state support of its charitable work.

Jai Bhim Buddhist Community which contributes to social integration of young Roma adults and children, not only lost its religious recognition but was subjected to a police raid.

All of this is reminiscent of some long forgotten time and has no place in today’s modern Europe.

On 19 March 2012, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe published a 15-page Opinion about the new Hungarian Religion Law in which it expressed serious reservations (See http://www.venice.coe.int/docs/2012/CDL-AD(2012)004-e.pdf). It found that retroactively de-registering religious organizations offends international human rights standards. It also found that the Parliamentary vote on registration offends due process, withholds necessary procedural guarantees, and offends the obligation of state neutrality and objectivity. Moreover, it found the national security criteria to be in violation of European Charter of Human Rights and the standards of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

We hereby call for this legislation to be repealed and religious freedom being protected in the interest of all citizens of Hungary.

Willy Fautre,
Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers International

Joe Grieboski,
Founder and President of the Institute on Religion & Public Policy

Peter Zoehrer,
Secretary General of Forum for Religious Freedom Europe

Rev. Drs. Wytske Dijkstra,
Chair of External Relations Committee of International Association for Religious Freedom

Rajan Zed,
President of Universal Society of Hinduism

Joel Thornton,
General Counsel and CEO the International Human Rights Group

Gibril Deen,

President of Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Organisation

Janos Nagy,
President of the Confederation of Hungarian Small Churches

Janos Orsos,
President of Hungarian Jai Bhim Buddhist Community

Jura Nanuk,
Founder of the Central-European Religious Freedom Institute

For more information about the new law on religions in Hungary, please contact

CERFI: Contact through their website: https://cerf-institute.org
HRWF: [email protected] – Website: http://www.hrwf.org
IRPP: Contact through their website: http://www.religionandpolicy.org
FOREF: [email protected] – Website: http://foref.info





Hungarian Government amending controversial law on churches?

25 03 2012

CERF INSTITUTE, BUDAPEST – In the letter to Central-European Religious Freedom Institute dated March 20, Hungarian Ombudsman Dr. Mate Szabo, stated that Hungarian Government is going to introduce amendments to the Act CCVI. of 2011 on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities.

Upon reviewing the report of Venice Commission and the amendments proposed by the Government, Dr. Szabo will decide if an action on his part should be undertaken.

Dr. Mate Szabo’s letter was an answer to the complaint filed by Central-European Religious Freedom Institute to Hungarian Ombudsman in which the Institute urged that the law be submitted for evaluation by Constitutional Court. According to the Institute’s founder Jura Nanuk, main faults of the Hungarian law on churches are violation of the principle of separation between church and state by requesting MP’s to vote on church status of individual religious communities, violation of the rule of law by stripping more than 200 religious communities of their acquired rights, discrimination by categorization of religious communities in three groups, introduction of provision on “National Security” which is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the fact that the law does not leave any possibility for legal remedy for religious communities which are refused the status of a church.





UNITED KINGDOM: Outrage at move towards banning Christian crosses from workplace

17 03 2012
The Scotsman (14.03.2012) / HRWF (16.03.2012) - www.hrwf.net - Religious groups have hit out at the UK government after a leaked document suggested it was moving to deny Christians the right to wear crosses at their place of work.

The Church of Scotland stressed that there should be “no discrimination” against people who wish to make statements of faith by wearing jewellery, after it emerged that ministers were fighting a case brought by two women at the European Court of Human Rights.

Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin claim that they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing the symbol.

Mrs Eweida’s case dates from 2006 when the 61-year-old, from Twickenham, was suspended by British Airways for breaching its uniform code. Mrs Chaplin, a 56-year-old nurse from Exeter, was barred from working on wards by Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust after refusing to hide the cross she wore on a necklace.

Lawyers for the two women claim that the protection under Article Nine of the Human Rights Act for “manifesting” religion covers things that are not a “requirement of the faith”.

The article states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” including the right to “manifest” their religion or belief “in worship, teaching, practice, and observance”.

The government is expected to make a submission to the Strasbourg court which dismisses their argument as “ill-founded”. Its argument, leaked to a Sunday newspaper, will state that the applicants’ wearing of a visible cross or crucifix was not a manifestation of their religion or belief within the meaning of Article 9, and… the restriction on the applicants’ wearing of a visible cross or crucifix was not an “interference” with their rights protected by Article 9.

The response, prepared by the Foreign Office, adds: “In neither case is there any suggestion that the wearing of a visible cross, or crucifix, was a generally recognised form of practising the Christian faith, still less one that is regarded (including by the applicants themselves) as a requirement of the faith.”

Christian groups have condemned the government’s stance as extraordinary and said it should not interfere.

Rev Ian Galloway, convenor of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, said: “Unless organisations have specific policies which preclude all employees from wearing jewellery, or governing the ways jewellery may be worn, the Church of Scotland hopes that there will be no discrimination against people who wish to wear items of a religious nature.

“Whatever the strict legal situation, we believe that individuals should have the right to make statements of faith, and this extends to the wearing of appropriate jewellery.”

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, also attacked the government’s argument. He said: “This is not the business of government actually. They are beginning to meddle in areas that they ought not to. I think they should leave that to the courts to make a judgment.

“If someone wanted to manifest their belief as a Christian that they wanted to wear a cross – after all at their baptism they are sealed with a cross of Christ – so if they decided to say, ‘I know I am sealed with it, but I am going to wear it’, I think that is a matter really for people and that we should allow it.”

Source: Human Rights Without Frontiers





Anti-Buddhism campaign in Austria

4 03 2012

HRWF (02.03.2012) – On 12 February, the construction of the biggest Buddhist temple in Europe was rejected by 67% of the population of Gföhl  who had been consulted on this issue. The mayor, Karl Simlinger, accepted the decision of the population. In the newspaper Standard, Bop Jon Sunim, a Buddhist monk and initiator of the project, commented the result of the referendum as follows: “The fact that the inhabitants of Gföhl have finally voted against the Buddhist temple is the result of a hate campaign of political and religious opponents.”

Among the promoters of this campaign, it is worth mentioning the “Austrian Society for the Protection of Tradition, Family and Private Property” (TFP) which distributed leaflets to incite the people against the Buddhist temple. “Buddhism in Austria, a wolf in the sheepfold”.

Prof. Christian Brünner, a constitutionalist from Graz and former president of the conference of the rectors, unambiguously criticized the anti-Buddhist hate campaign and the popular consultation.

Source: Human Rights Without Frontiers





Freedom of religion or belief in Russia

29 02 2012

HRWF (28.02.2012) - Human Rights Without Frontiers presents you an overview of incidents having taken place in Russia in the second semester of 2011. The full overview covering the 12 months can be found on the homepage of our websitehttp://www.hrwf.net

By Flint Timmins for Human Rights Without Frontiers

5 July

The Supreme Court of Russia overturned the 24 February ban on the Grace Church of Khabarovsk; however, the Khabarovsk Regional Court has initiated new procedures against the church’s leaders and membership. The Grace Church was accused of failing to maintain proper financial records as well as employing preaching methods, such as saying prayers loudly, speaking in “tongues,” and faith “healings,” that “changed the psychological state” of its members.

18 July

A Baptist conscientious objector was held in a psychiatric hospital since 1 July for observation following his refusal to take up arms. Igor Shlak, a 20-year-old Baptist, refused to serve in his military unit, desiring instead to perform alternative service. Six months before being called into the military, Shlak submitted written requests to the Tyumen and Nizhnetavdinsk Districts Military Enlistment Office in central Russia. He was told that he had not been selected for alternative service.

8 August

In the city of Chelyabinsk police raided the home of Muslim Nursi reader Gulnaz Valeyeva, claiming to have thwarted a suicide bomber plot. The home is used by local Muslim women for prayer. Police confiscated over 500 pamphlets and other religious material as well as instructions for preparing explosives. Local Muslims claim the instructions were planted by the raiding police.

8 August

The home of Nursi reader Farida Ulmaskulova was raided by police officers while she was conducting a religious education class for Muslim girls between the ages of 11 and 17 in the village of Aznalino, Safakuleev district, Kurgan region. Police confiscated religious texts, course materials, and DVDs. The girls were detained and questioned, being released in the evening.

25 August

Police officers and government officials carried out 19 simultaneous searches on Jehovah’s Witnesses’ homes in the Sea of Azov city of Taganrog. Church leaders say that such search raids are designed to intimidate and subdue the religion.

7 September

  • Ustina Chernishoff of Brazil was found in a community of Russian Old Believers on the banks of the Yenisei River in Siberia. Chernishoff, 23, was reported to Interpol as missing by her mother in Brazil after Chernishoff stopped sending letters. Chernishoff moved to the community with her father and brother in 2006 and spent much of her time making copies of religious texts. The Old Believers are Orthodox Christians who broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th Century.
  • Nursi reader Rashid Abdulov was sentenced to one year of compulsory labor for extremism. The Ulyanovsk Prosecutor’s Office stated that they felt the sentence was too light, preferring instead a 4-year sentence in a labor camp. Abdulov, a citizen of Azerbaijan, was first detained in January by the Russian secret service on charges of spreading Nursi teachings.
  • In the Chuvash Republic of western Russia, three Jehovah’s Witnesses were taken into custody while police searched their and other Witnesses’ homes. The police seized Bibles, personal computers, legal documents, and personal valuables. In the Chuvash cities of Cheboksary, Novocheboksarsk, and Kanash, Jehovah’s Witness worship services were interrupted by police and members were searched and fingerprinted.

9 September

In the region of Belgorod, the Federal Migration Service raided the Friday prayers of the local Muslim community Peace and Creation. Masked police interrupted the prayers and detained over 150 men. The men were searched, had their cell phones confiscated, and were taken to various police stations. The police said that the raid was aimed at “uncovering illegal migrants” and other migration violations, though only six of the detained were found to be illegal migrants. Local Muslims believe the raid was a response to a local television news report on the Muslim’s celebration of Ramadan, which boasted over 1000 attendees.

19 September

The Yoshkar-Ola City Court ordered five internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to two Jehovah’s Witness websites. Prosecutor Andrei Nazarov argued that the sites jw.org andwatchtower.org contain some works that are currently on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, prompting the court to ban access to the sites. A third site, jw-media.org, was also blocked even though it was not mentioned in the official ruling.

20 September

The Lenin District Court rejected the appeal of Nursi reader Ziyautdin Dapayev’s three-year prison sentence. Dapayev, 29, was sentenced under “extremism” for possessing banned religious literature written by Muslim theologian Said Nursi. Dapayev was accused of being “deliberately engaged in attracting residents of Dagestan to study and spread the teaching of Said Nursi.” Over 1,800 books, pamphlets, and other materials were taken from Dapayev’s home and turned over to the Muslim Board of Dagestan, a city along the Caspian Sea, with the instruction that the literature be destroyed.

2 October

In a letter presented at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, the Brussels-based human rights NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers called on the Russian government to: revise Article 14 of the Law on Freedom of conscience and association; end the misuse of Article 282 of the Criminal Code in harassing religious groups; end the harassment against Jehovah’s Witnesses and Nursi readers; dissolve the Ministry of Justice’s Expert Council for conducting State-Religious Studies; and to fully implement the decisions of the European Court concerning freedom of religion. 

7 October

  • The Russian Ministry of Justice proposed amendments to Russia’s religious law. The proposed amendments would: require all religious groups to register with the Ministry of Justice, even if the groups do not plan on seeking the status of a legal entity; limit the teaching of religious doctrines to officially registered religious associations; permit religious organizations to publish books and teach children only if the group belongs to a centralized religious association;  and allow the state to reject or revoke religious registration if the “goals and activities” of the group violate Russian law. The proposed law would effectively eliminate the legal distinctions between religious “organizations” and “groups.” Under current law, religious “groups” in Russia are allowed to operate privately and without being registered, allowing small groups of citizens to easily organize themselves in religious groups for the purpose of religious studies and prayer meetings.
  • The Kemerovo diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church protested against the entry of Andrei Matuizhov into the All-Russia National Front (ONF), a wing of Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party. Matuizhov is a former pastor of the “Love of Christ” evangelical church, which was closed by authorities in 2007 for allegedly violating religious laws. Matuizhov then joined the “New Generation” evangelical church, which was accused of extremism. Upon hearing of Matuizhov’s intent to join ONF, the Kemerovo diocese issued a statement to believers to oppose Matuizhov’s inclusion, stating that he might “lobby for ideas that will not serve the strengthening of our society but its moral degradation.”

10 October

In the city of Tomskthe Ministry of Justice sought to place the Hare Krishna text “The Bhagavad-Git As It Is” on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Prosecutors claimed that the book “contains signs of incitement of religious hatred and humiliation of an individual based on gender, race, ethnicity, language, origin or attitude to religion.” The Tomsk Region Ombudsperson of Human Rights, Nelli Krechetova, criticized the accusation, stating that it was an attempt to restrict the religious freedom of Hare Krishnas.

12 October

An Evangelical Christian-Baptist church in Vladivostok, located near the eastern border with China, was vandalized when a small group threw stones at windows.

3 November

Following the appeal of the Gorno-Altaisk Prosecutor’s Office, the Gorno-Altaisk City Court reversed the acquittal of Jehovah’s Witness Aleksandr Kalistratov and found him guilty of inciting religious hatred, sentencing him to 100 hours of community service. Human rights NGO Amnesty International called the decision “an attack against freedom of expression, of opinion, and freedom of confession.” Kalistratov was acquitted of extremism charges under Article 282 of the Criminal Code on 14 April. Kalistratov was accused of distributing copies of religious works banned by the Gorno-Altaisk City Court. Kalistratov was the first Jehovah’s Witness put on trial in post-Soviet Russia.

Mid-November

The sms message system operated by Russia’ Hare Krishna’s was shut down without warning by the Russian communications company NSS. The message system allows the 3,000 subscribers to send daily quotes, announcements, and event notices. It is unknown whether the government was involved in the shutdown.

2 December

Four of the nine Jehovah’s Witnesses works banned by the Salsk court in June were officially placed on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Additionally, nine other works were ruled “extremist” by the far eastern Sakhalin region’s Makarov District Court on 18 October. Officials from the religion claim that they were not informed of the Makarov decision until 11 November.

8 December

In a new report on the website www.jw-media.org, the Jehovah’s Witnesses documented over 1,000 instances of religious intolerance from 2009 to 2011. Religious discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses on the part of Russian officials and the general public has increased severely, consisting of over 120 home raids, 500 instances of interfering with proselyting activity, and 420 detentions or arrests.

12 December

An article on Russian “anti-sect” websites was published, criticizing the bigotry and falsehoods spread by these websites. The criticisms were aimed at Alexander Dvorkin, head of the Ministry of Justice’s and vice-president of the pan-European anti-sect organization FECRIS, and Alexander Kuzmin, Member of the Expert Council for Conducting Religious Studies Expert Analysis and operator of several “anti-sect” websites. The sites contain articles accusing non-Orthodox religions of witchcraft, murder, rape, and other crimes.

22 December

  • The Jehovah’s Witness Aleksandr Kalistratov was acquitted of spreading “enmity and hatred” in the Siberian city of Altaisk. Kalistratov had previously been found guilty of inciting religious hatred and sentenced to 100 hours of community service. He appealed the decision, having once been found innocent at the original trial which took place on 14 April.
  • A Russian court banned several pieces of Falun Gong literature, including its main text “Zhuan Falun.” The human rights NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers suggested that the decision may have come due to pressure from China, which is attempting to stamp out Falun Gong.

28 December

The Tomsk City Court refused to classify the Hare Krishna text “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” as “extremist.” The decision came partially in response to protests in India over the case. Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna called the case an attack on the “very soul of our great civilization.”





Hindus-Buddhists-Jews-Atheists seek EU intervention in Hungary to restore religious equality

9 02 2012

In a remarkable joint interfaith gesture, Hindus-Buddhists-Jews-Atheists want immediate intervention of European Union (EU) in Hungary to establish religious equality and freedom.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Hinduism and many other religions and denominations were not officially recognized in Hungary. Should not all religions be equal before the law in a democracy? Is not Hungary part of the EU which boasts of being the human rights leader in the world? Zed asked.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion in the world with a rich philosophical thought and about one billion adherents. Are not these enough qualifications for a religion to be recognized?

Rajan Zed expressed dismay at Hungary’s recent law on religion, saying that it was a setback to religious equality. The official recognition process was suffocating, cumbersome, unnecessarily burdened the Hungary’s minority religions/ denominations, smelled of favoritism, discriminatory against certain faith groups and was without any right to appeal. It was a step in the wrong and backwards direction, Zed added.

Zed further said that nations should not be in the business of regulating religion, which was very powerful and complex; and governments should not tell who was “church” and who was not.

Rajan Zed urged His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and other world religious leaders to speak against this recent Hungarian law and back the minority religions/denominations of Hungary. Religions/denominations with a major presence in Hungary should also come to the rescue of religious minorities.

Zed stated that Hungary seemed to have created its own narrow “definition” of religion which might not be compatible with European and international religious equality and freedom standards. This exclusionary approach sent a worrying signal, a cause for concern. Zed stressed the need for more openness, equality and religious freedom in Hungary; the country of Lake Balaton, romantic Danube River, Franz Liszt and Bela Bartok.

Meanwhile, Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada, in a statement today, stressed that Hinduism was one of the major religions of the world and the Hungarian Parliament was out of touch with the reality in not granting it recognition in upholding “The Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities” Law.  Rabbi Beyer stated that the Law created inferior religious status to faiths which had fewer followers in Hungary, violating the right to be free from religious discrimination.  Beyer noted that the Law, which also stripped liberal Jewish congregations of their religious status, was flawed and archaic.

Jon Eric Johnson, a well known atheist scholar belonging to Reno Freethinkers, in a statement today, said: “We are dismayed and disappointed at the Hungarian government for engaging in the regulation and exclusionary approach in religion. A free and democratic society must allow people to worship, or not worship, as they so choose without restriction, harassment or favoritism.”

Distinguished Buddhist priest in Western USA, Jikai’ Phil Bryan, in a statement in Reno  today, urged Hungary to end discriminatory practices aimed at members of any and all authentic religious traditions and treat all religions as equal before the law and government. Bryan stressed the urgent need of ensuring religious equality and freedom in Hungary.

In a past survey, 44% Hungarians reportedly replied that they believed that there was a God. Roman Catholics were the largest group with about 52% Hungarians as followers. Majority of Hungary became Christian in the 11th century. Budapest synagogue is said to be the largest in Europe. Pal Schmitt and Viktor Orban are President and Prime Minister respectively of Republic of Hungary.





Letter from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights to Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary

18 01 2012

Strasbourg, 12/01/12  – “Major legislative changes have been adopted in Hungary after minimal public consultation and without sufficient consideration of crucial human rights principles. Recent decisions affecting the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and freedom of religion raise serious concerns”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, publishing today a letter addressed to the Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs about the new Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, which deprives a great number of religious denominations of their church status.

Full text of the letter is available in pdf format from the website of Council of Europe. For access to the full text please click here.

Photo courtesy of Council of Europe Image Bank








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