The Venice Commission criticizes the state of religious freedom in Hungary

20 03 2012

The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional law, responded to a request from the government of Hungary for an advisory opinion, by issuing a report on Hungary’s 2011 Act On the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and the Legal Status of Churches, Denominations and Religious Communities. 

The main conclusions of the report are:

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of a democratic society. In this respect, it may only be restricted by strict criteria set out in international instruments.

States benefit from a large margin of appreciation with regard to the relationship between the church and the state and with regard to the choice of their policies and regulation in this field. The Venice Commission recognises that there is legitimate concern in Hungary to eliminate the abuse of religious organisations, which have operated for illicit and harmful purposes or for personal gain. One of the main justifications for this new Act is the need to prevent some religious organizations from abusing the possibility of receiving public funding. Although various types of solutions have been found throughout Europe, the European guarantees must not be undermined.

As a whole, the Act constitutes a liberal and generous framework for the freedom of
religion. However, although few in number, some important issues remain problematic and fall short of international standards.

The Act sets a range of requirements that are excessive and based on arbitrary criteria with regard to the recognition of a church. In particular, the requirement related to the national and international duration of a religious community and the recognition procedure, based on a political decision, should be reviewed. This recognition confers a number of privileges to churches concerned.

The Act has led to a deregistration process of hundreds of previously lawfully recognised churches, that can hardly be considered in line with international standards.

Finally, the Act induces, to some extent, an unequal and even discriminatory treatment of religious beliefs and communities, depending on whether they are recognised or not.

The Venice Commission was informed that – as a reaction to the draft opinion – the Government intends to introduce amendments, which is welcome. The Commission had no possibility to examine these proposals but it remains at the disposal of the Hungarian authorities for any further assistance.

For the access to the full text of the report, please click here.





HUMAN RIGHTS ALERT: Discriminatory actions against Hungarian Jai Bhim Buddhist Community

23 02 2012

By Jura Nanuk/CERFI

Hungarian Jai Bhim Buddhist Community operates several educational programs for Roma children and young adults in Hungary, using philosophy of Buddhism to help their integration into Hungarian society. In their work they are following the example of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Indian political leader and philosopher, born in untouchable caste, so called Dalits. Ambedkar converted to Buddhisms and inspired many of Dalits to do the same thus escaping humiliating life of untouchable Indian caste.

On February 23, police came to Sajokaza village to “investigate” the fact that in small Roma village 300 inhabitants identified themselves as Buddhists in last population census. Authorities found this suspicious and started an “investigation”, which might be represent violation of Data Protection Law, as religious affiliation is considered sensitive personal data per Hungarian law, and nobody has the rights to investigate somebodies religious affiliation.

Day latter, police entered Jai Bhim school building in Sajokaza, arresting three teenage girls. The girls were arrested and handcuffed and taken into local police station. From the recording of the school security cameras which recorded in full the arrest, it is clearly visible there was absolutely no need to use the handcuffs as the girls were not resisting the arrest and were not representing threat to themselves or others.

Needless to say, Hungarian Jai Bhim community lost their religious status due to repressive Hungarian law on churches  which affected hundreds of Hungarian religious communities.  When Jai Bhim’s  request for re-registration was refused by justification that they filed the papers one day too late which has nothing to do with the truth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.





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




European Leadership Conference: Declaration on Religious Freedom in Hungary

13 12 2011

Attendees of European Leadership Conference organized by Universal Peace Federation on December 8-10 in UK Parliament, condemned newly enacted Hungarian law on churches. 

After the report on religious freedom situation in Hungary submitted by Jura Nanuk, Founder & President of Central-European Religious Freedom Institute and Deputy President of Media & PR Committee of Croatian Religious Liberty Association, attendees signed a joint statement which was forwarded to Hungarian Ambassador in UK, Hungarian Constitutional Court, President Pál Schmitt, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Minister Tibor Navracics, religious leaders and national news agency MTI.

 

Below is the text of Declaration in full:

DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
IN HUNGARY

We, the attendees of the European Leaders Conference organized by the Universal Peace Federation, 8-10 December 2011, held in the Houses of Parliament London, wish to make our voices heard and our concerns expressed with regards to the Hungarian Act 100 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 in that country.

This legislation, which we consider to be a violation of the Constitution of Hungary and of fundamental human rights, now subjects more than 200 religions to an arbitrary and biased registration procedure after stripping them of their religious rights.

Each of these groups is now forced to undergo an highly arbitrary procedure should they wish to register as a religion which not only places a series of unfair administrative blocks in the way but includes, as a final obstacle, the condition of being voted upon by the Hungarian Parliament and only by gaining a two thirds majority, would that group be accepted as a Church. If not accepted, they cannot use the word ‘Church’ in their name.

Never before, except in totalitarian states, has the status of religion been subject to such a vote by legislators. Such procedures could hardly be further away from international human rights standards and academically accepted determinations of what may constitute a religion.

This deregistration process will affect the activities of many religious organisations and is in breach of democratic standards separating Church and State. The withdrawal of religious status will affect the support by religious groups to different communities and activities, including the homeless, the elderly, the poor, prisoners and children. 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.

We hereby call for this legislation to be repealed and urge any concerned individuals and bodies to take action in support of religious freedom.

Jura Nanuk
Croatian Religious Liberty Association
Central-European Religious Freedom Institute

Peter Zoehrer
Forum for Religious Freedom – Europe

Willy Fautre
Human Rights Without Frontiers International

Yong Cheol Song
Family Federation for World Peace and Unification

prof. Rita Ilisson
TallinnUniversity

Ingo Dammann
Jugend für Menshenrechte Berlin

Rev. Dr. Isaac Nsereko
Ministry of Education and Sports,Uganda

Jean-Fransois Moulinet
Fédération pour la paix universelle,France

Dr. Nnamdi Ahunanya
Universal Peace Federation,Malta

Mr. A.F. Herzer
Universal Peace Federation,UK

Tamara Mhura
Women’s Federation for World Peace

David Hanna

Lic Fabian Lopez

Robin Marsh

Farida Hashem

R.K. Williamson  

Raman Bulsara

Smita Najran

Patricia Earle

Maria Cristina N. Pessego

Yasmin Fayal

Margaret O’Brian

Beverley Regis





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





Hungarian pastor on hunger strike protesting against repressive law on churches

30 11 2011

A hunger strike is a method of non-violent resistance or pressure in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt in others, usually with the objective to achieve a specific goal, such as a policy change. Most hunger strikers will take liquids but not solid food. A hunger strike cannot be effective if the fact that it is being undertaken is not publicized so as to be known by the people who are to be impressed, concerned or embarrassed by it.

In the first 3 days, the body is still using energy from glucose. After that, the liver starts processing body fat, in a process called ketosis. After 3 weeks the body enters a “starvation mode”. At this point the body “mines” the muscles and vital organs for energy, and loss of bone marrow becomes life-threatening.

Jeremiás Izsák-Bács, a leading pastor of the Hungarian Anabaptist Mission, Hungarian Mennonite Church, has started a hunger strike in Strasbourg on the 10th of November aimed at the new church law which becomes effective on the 1st of January, 2012. The new law deprives 250 churches of their currently recognized religious status with a stroke of a pen. This law forces them to be terminated or to re-register as citizens’ associations. Please help pastor Izsák-Bács by spreading the news about his action through blogs, Facebook and media if possible.

Pastor Izsák-Bács needs financial support for medical supervision of his bodily function and hotel room in Starsbourgh. Hungarian edition of Voice of America published in their online article data on bank account where financial support for pastor Izsák-Bács can be sent:

Bank name: BUDAPEST BANK Rt.
Bank address: 1138 Budapest, Váci út 188. (EU – Hungary)
Account owner: Evangéliumi Szolnoki Gyülekezet Egyház
Address: 5000 Szolnok, TVM. Ltp. Művelődési Ház, (EU – Hungary)
Account number: 10104569 – 72957800 – 00000002
IBAN : HU37 1010 4569 7295 7800 0000 0002
SWIFT Code: BUDAHUHB 

For more information on pastor Izsák-Bács please contact pastor Péter  Soós,  mobil : +36-30-663-0880, E-mail: [email protected]

PRESS RELEASE

November 23, 2011, Strasbourg

My name is Jeremiás Izsák-Bács. I am pastor and representative of the Hungarian Mennonite Church. I have been on a hunger strike since November 10 to call the attention to the serious violation of the law inHungary.  

The Hungarian Parliament has adopted a series of laws that restricted the freedom of press and speech, made the electoral law one-sided, deprived citizens of social rights and drastically reduced the employees’ rights.  All of these actions infringe our basic human rights in an unacceptable and unconstitutional manner. 

This unspeakable legislation has also come to the church law. This irregularly forced new church law left untouched the legal status of only 14 churches; the right of every other legally registered church was taken away; starting in January, these groups will only be allowed to operate as societies rather than churches.  This is a fundamental and drastic loss of rights.

I protest against the deprivation of civil rights, the unacceptable restrictions, and I fight for Hungary to return to the legal and democratic norms agreed upon by the European Union!

Jeremiás Izsák-Bács






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








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Powered by WordPress.com