Update on Hungarian Law on Churches

30 12 2011

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Short summary of today’s day might sound like this: While Hungarian Parliament Members were voting about the new religious law, people were demonstrating outside the Parliament demanding religious freedom for all.

Although Hungarian Parliament is among the most beautiful parliament buildings in the world, beauty is not enough to prevent some really ugly laws to be created there. The positive news is that request for “100 years of presence in Hungary or Internationally”, was changed back to “20 years of existence in Hungary”.

We are waiting to receive the translation of the final text of the law, and will provide you more detailed update in a couple of days. In the photo gallery below you can see pictures of demonstrations held outside the Parliament as well as the pictures of Parliament from the inside.

We really hope next year will be better, but to make it better all of us will need to work harder, or as one advertisment said “Don’t work harder, work smarter”.

 

Photo by Jura Nanuk/CERF Institute





Looming De-registration of Churches in Hungary Prompts IRLA Meeting with Ambassador

24 12 2011

More than 300 religious organizations are set to lose legal status on Jan. 1

Dec. 13, 2011 … International Religious Liberty Association leaders met this week with the Hungarian ambassador to the United States in an effort to help officials from that country better understand the potential effects of a looming deregistration of churches.The Law of Churches, set for implementation on January 1, would deregister all but 14 religious denominations in Hungary.

Hungarian Ambassador to the United States, Gyorgy Szapary, met with IRLA deputy secretary generals Dwayne Leslie and Ganoune Diop on December 12 at the Hungarian embassy in Washington, D.C. While the law is still set for implementation, the IRLA representatives later described the meeting as “cordial” and “productive.”

“We expressed our deep concerns to Ambassador Szapary about Hungary’s recently passed ‘Law on Churches’ and its impact, not just on the Adventist Church, but on many other minority religions as well,” said Dwayne Leslie, director of legislative affairs for the IRLA. Leslie represented the IRLA at the meeting along with Ganoune Diop, the organization’s representative to the United Nations.

Following Monday’s meeting, Diop said the ambassador was gracious and receptive to the issues presented.”The meeting provided an excellent opportunity for dialogue — we stated our concerns clearly, and heard the perspective of the Hungarian government,” he said.

When the new law, voted in July, goes into effect next month, it will strip all but 14 “historic” religions of their legal status. Minority religions must then apply to the Hungarian parliament for re-registration.

Since the legislation was passed, Hungary has maintained that the move was not “anti-religion,” but rather a legislative means to root out fraudulent organizations operating behind the protection of religion.

Religious liberty advocates worldwide, however, have decried the law, calling it unnecessary state interference with religion and a setback for human rights in Hungary. More than 300 groups are set to lose their registration, including Hungary’s Methodists, Unitarians, a number of Islamic communities, and many smaller Protestant and evangelical churches.

Source: Bettina Krause/IRLA





HUNGARIAN LAW ON CHURCHES: Open Letter of US Congressmen to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban

18 12 2011

We write as Members of the Congress of the United States to express our deep concern about Hungary’s new “Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities,” which was adopted on July 12, 2011. We applaud the Hungarian Constitution’s commitment to religious freedom and hope that Hungary will remain committed to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedom of conscience and religion.

We understand that the “Religion Law” of 1990 gave religious groups “registered” status in order to perform their important social and charitable work. However, several religious and human rights organizations in Hungary, Europe and here in the United States have informed us that the new religion law will “de-register” all but 14 of the more than 350 religious groups currently registered. With the bill’s passage, thousands of congregations-from Methodists to Evangelicals to Muslims-will automatically lose their “registered” legal status on January 1, 2012. Further, we are concerned that in order to “re-register” and gain legal recognition, these de-registered groups will have to meet seven different criteria and win a two-thirds majority vote of the Hungarian Parliament.

The new religion law thus establishes the Parliament as the competent authority on religious communities, putting it in the business of evaluating and judging beliefs, doctrines and values, and of determining which groups are acceptable and which are not. This action will politicize the process and violate the duty of the state to be neutral when it comes to religion.

Moreover, it will inevitably result in discrimination against minority religious groups. As we understand it, the new religion law contravenes the human rights norms, standards and instruments of the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nations, and it ignores the relevant decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. For instance, we have seen that the European Parliament has called on the Hungarian government to “guarantee equal protection of the rights of every citizen, no matter which religious group they belong to, in accordance with Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.” In addition twenty-four members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States signed a motion for a resolution that expressed “serious concern with respect to recent developments related to the rule of law, human rights and the functioning of democratic institutions in Hungary.” It also requested a human rights monitoring procedure to ensure Hungarian compliance with the European Convention for Human Rights and other Council instruments Hungary has signed and ratified.

Furthermore, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia’s testimony before Congress on July 26, 2011, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stated during her June 30th visit to Hungary:

The United States will ask the government to carefully reconsider the new law on “the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities,” which requires re-registration of all but 14 religious groups, negatively impacting the religious freedom atmosphere in Hungary.

We write to echo the European Parliament’s call on the Hungarian government to “guarantee equal protection of the rights of every citizen” and to reiterate the U.S. Secretary of

State’s call for the Hungarian government to reconsider the new religion law. We urge your government to make substantive revisions to bring the new law into conformity with the Hungarian constitution and the international human rights instruments Hungary has signed and ratified.

Sincerely,





Hungarian Hare Krishna community setting a good example

15 12 2011

The Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness is the main representative of the Hindu world religion in Hungary. The Krishna devotees are known for their diligent religious practices, dedicated distribution of eternal spiritual wisdom and pure, exemplary lifestyles. Their efforts and achievements in assisting underprivileged people, as well as in fighting environmental problems and promoting sustainability, are also well known and valued worldwide.

Recent Hungarian law on churches threatened their religious status and put a question mark over the future of their agricultural land in Hungary, known as Krishna-valley. Hungarian law on arable land says only the State, churches and individuals have right to own arable land. If Krishna community would lose its religious status due to new draconian law on churches, their 270-hectare farm – a home to 300 monks and sacred cows – might become State property overnight.

On the 13th of December, they held a peaceful demonstration with their homeless-to-be cows, monks and families in front of the Hungarian Parliament. Also, to make their case stronger, they issued a petition, which was signed by tens of thousand people from all over the world in a matter of days.

Indian government officials, businessmen, as well as international Hindu organizations in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom have expressed their concern about the issue at the Hungarian Embassies in their respective countries, as well as by sending letters directly to Prime Minister Viktor Orban:

“We are deeply disappointed that Hungary, whose ardent desire for true democracy the whole world could witness and admire over twenty years ago, now is making the mistake of not protecting its citizens` equality  — and discriminates against internationally respected religious organizations.” – Hindu Forum of Europe

“The global efforts of International Society for Krishna Consciousness we represented as faith based best practices, at a recent Hindu American Seva (service) conference at the White House. Their efforts and achievements in fighting environmental problems and promoting sustainability are also well-known and valued worldwide. Their Krishna-Valley farm has brought hundreds of thousands of tourists and more international recognition for Hungary.“ - Hindu American Seva Charities

“On behalf of Hindu Forum of Britain we are requesting that you, Mr. Prime Minister, and the Parliament of Hungary rectify this situation as soon as possible. We are especially urging the Hungarian Parliament to re-establish the church status of all Hindu Groups in Hungary. Including the Society for Krishna Consciousness, which is a part of the 5000 year old Hindu Faith and a representative of the Gaudia Vaishnava Tradition.” - Hindu Forum of Britain

“On behalf of the Hindu community, we are respectfully requesting that this situation is rectified as soon as possible by repealing the legislation or amending its discriminatory provisions. We are fully convinced that the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness is worthy of all your support, as it is a tremendous asset not only to the Hungarian people, but also to the international community.” - Hindu American Foundation

 

With their non-confrontational, peace loving ways, Hungarian Krishna community is setting a good example in protecting religious freedom in Hungary.

Congratulations!

Jura Nanuk,
Central-European Religious Freedom Institute 

Photo by Vajda József/Nepszava




Hungary Threatens Religious Liberty

12 12 2011

By Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute

Religious repression typically occurs in Islamic or authoritarian regimes. Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Cuba, Pakistan and Burma come to mind. But it appears that European democracies are not immune from the virus. Unfortunately, Hungary has adopted legislation which undermines this most basic liberty.

Hungary has a well-earned reputation for fighting for freedom. It was the locus of revolutionary ferment in 1848, which was suppressed by the Austrian empire only with the help of Tsarist Russia. In 1956 Hungarians revolted against their Soviet overlords. Although the revolution was brutally crushed, the people’s spirit of resistance forced the new Hungarian communist leadership to rule with a lighter economic hand. In 1989 Budapest turned the modest freedom wave rolling through the Soviet bloc into a tsunami by tearing down the border fence with Austria. The result was a large break in the Iron Curtain which could not be closed.

Democratic Hungary joined both the European Union and NATO. With the implosion of the left-leaning government last year Fidesz, the Hungarian Civic Union, and its smaller partner, KDNP, the Christian Democratic People’s Party, won more than two thirds of the National Assembly seats. (Fidesz is by far the dominant partner; the two parties run on a shared list.) Prime Minister Viktor Orban took office with an opportunity to transform his nation.

Unfortunately, however, the observation that a parliamentary system often turns into a democratic dictatorship proved to be true. Prime Minister Orban has exhibited authoritarian tendencies.

Over the last year, reports the human rights group Freedom House, Hungary moved backward in terms of civil society, independent media, national democratic governance and judicial independence. The individual setbacks were modest, but collectively represent a worrisome erosion of basic liberties. Freedom House still rates Hungary as free, but moving in a negative direction.

Explained the organization, the new government reduced various governmental checks and balances. The Orban ministry also ”curtailed freedom of speech through the adoption of new media legislation; intimidated the judiciary by summoning judges to parliamentary hearings on cases related to the riots of 2006; changed election procedures to give the ruling parties an edge in the October municipal elections; and nationalized the savings in a system of compulsory private pension funds.”

Much attention has focused on the government’s restrictive new media law. Reported Freedom House: “Hungary received a downward trend arrow due to the government’s efforts to consolidate control over the country’s independent institutions, including the creation of a new media council dominated by the ruling party that has the ability to impose large fines on broadcast print, and online media outlets.”

The State Department raised similar concern in its annual report on human rights. New laws “broadened the range of views whose expression was illegal” and “concentrated authority over the media in a single government body with wide-ranging authorities.” A report for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe warned that the legislation introduced “stricter regulation, more pervasive controls and limitations on freedom of expression.”

While the government might not abuse its new powers, the temptation to punish journalists for the content of their speech, especially when it is critical of the government, will be strong if not overwhelming. Moreover, journalists will feel pressure to self-censure. For instance, a public radio station suspended two employees who held a moment of silence to protest passage of the new law.

Less remarked upon but equally serious is the threat posed by a new law on religious liberty. Until now there had been little complaint over the government’s treatment of believers. In fact, Budapest had been returning property seized during communist rule.

However, in July the parliament, with little debate, hurriedly adopted the “Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions, and Religious Community.” The Institute on Religion and Public Policy, with which I am affiliated, warned that the legislation ”is the most egregious example of a disturbing trend in Hungary to undermine human rights.”

Under the law, only 14 of 362 Hungarian religious organizations registered under the earlier law (passed in 1990) will be officially recognized. As a number of Hungarian human rights activistspointed out in an open letter, “Among the churches that were discriminated against are, to mention only a few, Hungary’s Methodist, Pentecostal, Adventists and reform Jewish churches; the Salvation Army and Jehovah’s Witnesses; and all the Islamic, Buddhist, and Hinduist congregations.”

Other than the 14, any religious association seeking official sanction will have to demonstrate its presence in Hungary for at least 20 years, obtain 1,000 signatures, gain the support of a government minister, pass review by the National Security Service, and win a two-thirds vote of parliament. At the last minute the government substituted parliamentary for judicial review. This system, explained the Institute in its detailed assessment of the legislation, is “the most burdensome registration system” in Europe. Observed one Hungarian newspaper, “Gods are now sitting in parliament” who get to decide who constitutes a church and who does not.

The law represents discrimination more characteristic of “countries such as Russia and Malaysia” rather than liberal democracies, noted Paula Schriefer of Freedom House. The Institute warned that “a tiered system offering an inferior religious status to minority faiths violates the right to religious freedom and the right to be free from religious discrimination.” In a challenge to similarly discriminatory Austrian legislation, the European Court for Human Rights opined: “a distinction based essentially on a difference in religion alone is not acceptable.”

Without question those faiths at greatest disadvantage will be those with smaller numbers of adherents and less popular doctrines. The 20-year requirement helps protect existing churches — institutions as much as beliefs — from challenge. In fact, Zoltan Tarr, General Secretary of the Hungarian Reformed Church, was open about his support of the measure for this reason: “We wanted a new law to make it more difficult to establish churches here — and we’re happy the present government has now done something.” He added that: “We’re very much for freedom of worship and believe everyone should have the right to practice their religion. But this law represents a positive step, since it excludes quite a few communities which don’t legitimately qualify as churches.” Russia did much the same, though with a less onerous 15-year standard. It was a system designed to benefit the Orthodox Church and other established faiths.

Tossing recognition into parliament is an invitation to abuse. Observed the Institute: “Registration is reduced to a beauty contest, requiring a substantial majority vote, allowing votes to be cast on purely discriminatory grounds while making a mockery of the strict requirements of impartiality and neutrality in matters of religion. The law authorized the state to employ the lethal weapon of religious doctrine and beliefs.” Indeed, the legislation was initially proposed by the sectarian KDNP. Party Chairman and Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen said he wanted to “make order” since it was “abnormal” to have so many churches.

So far, at least, unofficial churches will continue to be able to operate, though they will not be allowed to call themselves “churches.” In the short-term the major effect of the legislation may be to limit which churches can receive cash from the government — subsidies actually have been increased this year, even though Budapest recently went to the International Monetary Fund for potential financial help.

Direct public funding of religion always is a bad idea, especially for churches themselves. It is no coincidence that the least vibrant, most decrepit churches in Europe are state churches dependent on the state for succor. In contrast, religious liberty, which necessarily includes separation from the state, in America has delivered a far more vibrant community of faith.

However, many of the funds went not to religious promotion but to social services “for the homeless, the elderly and the poor,” noted the activist letter-writers. Whether public monies should be funneled through religious institutions even for such good works is an important question — and one debated in the U.S. However, discriminating against particular faiths is wrong, the sort of dangerous sectarianism which Americans sought to prevent through the First Amendment.

Moreover, not just money is at stake in Hungary. Having derecognized most churches, Budapest will deny accreditation to any schools managed by those churches. That represents a significant threat to educational as well as religious liberty.

Indeed, explained the Institute for Religion and Public Policy: “key activities for religious organizations such as operating religious-spiritual, educational, training, higher educational, medical, charitable, social family, child or youth protection, culture or sport institutions or carrying out these activities; producing or selling publications and religious objects necessary for the religious spiritual activities; and partial utilization of a real estate used for church purposes will no longer quality as religious activities for de-registered religious associations. Instead, they will be considered as economic activities for de-registered organizations while they continue to be considered religious activities for religions that remain registered.”

The National Security Service review was added through an amendment from the extreme nationalist Jobbik party. Whether directed against Muslims or members of other faiths, the measure provides largely unreviewable grounds for restricting religious liberty. Warned Institute chairman Joseph Grieboski, “It is simply improper to play the ‘national security’ card to build long term restrictions and impediments into normal religious association laws.”

As serious as is the law’s practical application today, the measure’s future implications are even more worrisome. Dividing churches and faiths through political decisions based on arbitrary criteria and political decisions threatens free religious belief and practice. Religious minorities would be a convenient scapegoat should economic and political problems grow in the future. A country which suffered so under communism should be particularly sensitive to the potential for abuse of government power.

Of course, the danger in Hungary pales compared to the problem of religious persecution elsewhere. In Egypt, for instance, violent attacks on the Coptic minority are increasing. In Afghanistan and Iraq, both supported by U.S. troops, Christians and other religious minorities suffer discrimination and worse.

However, Washington’s policy inconsistencies and hypocrisies are evident to the world. It is important for the U.S. government — and, more importantly, the American people — to speak out when the violator of religious liberty is a historically Christian nation, friendly state and member of the European Union and NATO. And especially when the violator should know better, as with Hungary, which has suffered so much under tyranny and struggled so hard to gain freedom.

Source: Huffington Post
Photo by SITA/AP





Appeal by ISKCON Hungary: Save the grasslands of the Krishna’s cows in Hungary

4 12 2011

(unauthorized translation of letter written by Mr. Matyas Mero, Spokesman of ISKCON Hungary) 

Dear Friends,

Since 1994, in Hungary, only private individuals, the State and Churches are allowed to own agricultural land. This law was created to prevent large multinational corporations from buying the cheap land for monocultural mass production of genetically modified seeds which bring profit on the short term basis, but on the long run they are ruining the soil and the nature.

If Krishna Consciousness Society of Hungary loses it’s religious status [due to new Law on Churches], its large land at Krishna Valley – eco-village and largest self sustained community in Hungary – might find itself in a legal limbo and become a property of the State which would not only be unfair, but would be against the very purpose of the Law on Agricultural Land.

In order to draw the attention of the National Assembly to this problem and to urge them to provide solution, a peaceful demonstration will be held on December 13, at 14.00, on the parking in front of Ministry of Justice on Kossuth Square.

Please join us at the demonstrations and sign our online petition!

PROTECT Krishna pastures

TO SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION CLICK HERE

For more information please visit www.krisna.hu

Thank you,

Matyas Mero





Vatican council sends Deepavali greetings to Hindus

29 11 2011

Vatican City - The Vatican Council for Interreligious Dialogue has offered its “cordial greetings” to Hindus celebrating the feast of Deepavali. The council proposed religious freedom as the answer to religiously motivated conflicts.

“May God, the source of all light, illumine your hearts, homes and communities for a life of peace and prosperity,” said the Oct. 20 message, signed by the council president Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and the council secretary Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata.

The three-day Deepavali celebrations begin this year on Oct. 26. They mark the beginning of a new year and are a time for Hindus to take part in family reconciliation and adoration of the divine.

The Council for Inter-religious Dialogue traditionally shares a reflection on the occasion. This year it chose the subject of religious freedom because it is at center stage in many places. The subject calls attention to “those members of our human family exposed to bias, prejudice, hate propaganda, discrimination and persecution on the basis of religious affiliation.”

Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, they said.

“When it is jeopardized or denied, all other human rights are endangered. Religious freedom necessarily includes immunity from coercion by any individual, group, community or institution,” they explained.

The message comes after several years of tensions and anti-Christian violence in some parts of India. Hindu radicals have participated in deadly attacks that have driven Christians out of their homes and destroyed their churches.

The Vatican council said that the human freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion or belief can take place in public or private, alone or in a community.

The right to religious freedom also involves a “serious obligation” from civil authorities, individuals and groups to respect the freedom of others. It also includes the freedom to change one’s own religion.

The council’s letter observed that respect for religious freedom allows believers to be “more enthusiastic” about cooperating with their fellow citizens to build “a just and human social order.” Its denial stifles and frustrates “authentic and lasting peace.”

The council noted areas like the defense of life and the dignity of the family, the education of children, honesty in daily life and the preservation of natural resources as areas in which believers can make a specific contribution to the common good.

“Let us strive, then, to join hands in promoting religious freedom as our shared responsibility, by asking the leaders of nations never to disregard the religious dimension of the human person,” the council said.

“We cordially wish you a joyful celebration of Deepavali.”

Source: Catholic News Agency





A Lie Repeated Thousand Times Becomes Truth?

13 09 2011

The idea from the title above, often misattributed to Joseph Goebels, Nazi “PR expert”, actually comes straight  from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. One of the lies which is being for many years systematically presented to Hungarian religious communities and the public is the idea that there are so called “business-churches” which are abusing liberal religious law in Hungary. This lies are being heavily pushed and promoted as the justification for recent creation of the most restrictive Law on Religion known in democratic societies today.

Somewhere in 2001 there was a rumor about business masquerading as church. They were allegedly presenting import of Russian car parts as their main religious activity. Then some months ago I heard another similar rumor about another business-church allegedly importing bicycle parts as claiming bicycle chains to be the rosary beads of their religion. Although those stories are certainly entertaining they have some bad sides as well; first – some people takes them seriously and believe in them, second – they are liable to snowball effect, growing as more and more is being added to them as time goes by.

While Hungary, as well as any other country, have its state agencies and institutions whose job is to enforce the respect of the laws and the legal system, some people are trying to convince us that Hungarian tax office, police and courts are totally incapable for performing their tasks. In other words, if somebody is importing car parts and is covering this obviously commercial activity by registering itself as a church he is committing at least two criminal acts: fraud by false presentation and tax evasion. Both of those criminal acts are already covered by existing laws and it is not true that for prevention of such crimes a new law on churches is needed. To simplify even further, sexual abuse of minors is a criminal act regulated by existing laws and no new law on religion is needed in order to prosecute a child molesting priest.  

The the accumulate, snowball effect of such lies is visible in an article recently published on the website of Hungarian Reformed Church (one of those 14 who were granted religious status by the new Law). Article explains that the new Law on Religion was needed because “in last 5-7 years the number of those communities and groups which were abusing the church status was increasing”. Most probably out of ignorance the author of the article is forwarding an outright lie.

It is easy to differentiate lies and rumors from facts, main difference being that lies and rumors lack specifics. If those allegations were true, we would know who exactly was it, what was the exact crime, where was it happening, on which court they were tried, etc. As none of the specific are available on absolutely any of the alleged “business-churches” it is clear that they probably do not exist. Even if those allegation were true they can not be accepted as the reason for the new law on religion, as there are existing laws which sanction such abuses.

The question which remains to be answered is who is creating those rumors and why. Until then, if it sounds as a rumor, which is to say the story does not give any specifics as to who, what, where, how, when, it most probably is a rumor so do your self a favor – don’t believe it.

Sincerely yours,

Jura Nanuk,
Director of Inter-Religious Cooperation,
Central European Religious Freedom Institute

PS: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stated in several of its official documents and recommendations that new laws on religions are not needed for preventing abuses of religious status and governments are advised to ”use the normal procedures of criminal and civil law against illegal practices carried out in the name of groups of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature”.





President of International Association for Religious Freedom wrote to Hungarian Ambassadors in Washington, Tokyo, London

26 08 2011

The International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) is a UK-based NGO working for freedom of religion & belief at a global level. IARF has General Consultative Status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations. On Monday, August 22, President of IARF, Rev.  Mitsuo Miyake, sent letters to Hungarian Ambassadors in Washington, Tokyo, London, expressing his concern for the state of religious freedom in Hungary.

In his letter, the IARF President said:

During Hungary’s democratic transition twenty years ago, the separation of religious and political institutions was achieved. But on 12 July this year, Hungary’s Parliament passed a law on churches that deprived more than 100 religious denominations of their church status (notably, all Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu congregations, as well as Methodist, Pentecostal, Adventist and reform Jewish churches; the Salvation Army and Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Many religious communities have become pariahs overnight, with all their social, healthcare and educational services stripped of their lawful subsidies. This withdrawal of subsidy will impact certain groups to whom they have been providing services: the homeless, the elderly, the poor, Roma, inmates, children and young people in middle and higher education.

In breach of democratic standards separating church from state, the law declared that in future a vote by Parliamentary parties will authorize religious groups’ existence.

All groups, existing and new, will have to request recognition from a government minister, who will “evaluate” their religious creeds.

This is a violation of the principle of freedom and equality of religions, and the passage of such a law marks Hungary as the first EU member state to break with this principle.

During the Soviet domination of the1970s, worship sites were shut or demolished without recourse. But today Europe is united in the principles of freedom of belief, equality before the law, and separation of church from state (Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

The IARF therefore joins the international calls urging Hungary’s political leadership to reconsider this law, in order to bring the religious life of the nation into conformity with European norms.

 

 

source: International Association for Religious Freedom





The Church of England Newspaper: Hungary bans Anglicans

20 08 2011

Hungary has introduced a new law governing the registration of religious groups that critics charge discriminates against minority faiths, and strips St Margaret’s Anglican Church in Budapest of its status as a religious organisation.

On 14 July the Hungarian Parliament adopted “The Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities” Law, by a vote of 254 in favour to 43 opposed.

Introduced on 10 June in Parliament, the proposed legislation would have created three tiers of religious groups, with differing authorities to conduct worship and engage in charitable activities under Hungarian law. Human Rights activists, NGOs and a number of religious leaders objected, arguing, in the words of the Washington think-tank, the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, the bill gave Hungary “a tiered system offering an inferior religious status to minority faiths that violates the right to religious freedom and the right to be free from religious discrimination.”

On 12 July the governing Fidesz party with their coalition allies the Christian Democrats amended the bill, eliminating the tier system and recognising 14 religious organisations as Churches. Hungary’s 348 other faiths and denominations were stripped of their legal status as religious organisations and lost their tax exempt status and entitlements to state subsidies.

The 14 denominations that were allowed to retain their registration were the Roman and Greek Catholic Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Lutherans, the Calvinists, select Jewish denominations, the Hungarian Unitarians, the Baptists and the Faith Church.

Among those losing recognition were Hungary’s Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal, Adventist and reform Jewish congregations, the Salvation Army and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu groups.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy condemned the new law saying it “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.”

A coalition of human rights and democracy activists that opposed the communist regime submitted an open letter to the European Union asking it to intervene. “Never before has a Member State of the EU so blatantly dared to go against the principles of freedom of beliefs, equality before the law, and separation of church from state. These are all established fundamental rights in our common Europe,” the 8 August letter stated.

“In the 1970s, under the Soviet domination over Eastern Europe, all we could do in similar situations was to hold vigils at worship sites that had been shut or demolished.

We fought for a Europe that is united under human rights. Have our hopes been in vain,” they stated, urging the EU to “start an official inquiry into this violation of the rights that are possessed by all Europeans.”

source: The Church of England Newspaper








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