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Many Claim New Law in Hungary Violates Constitution and Rights of Christians

Hungary’s Ombudsman Asking Top Court To Overturn Church Law Amid Rights Concerns

ICC Note:

A new law in Hungary called 'Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Communities' is being called controversial by Christians. With this law “only 32 of over 300 faith groups in Hungary received formal recognition by Parliament to operate as churches,” which sounds quite similar to what Christians in many countries in Central Asia are facing right now. Many are concerned that this law may be an indication that Hungary is edging back towards the communist-era they left behind over twenty years ago.

By Stefan J. Bos

08/15/2012 Hungary (BosNewsLife)-- Hungary's elected official for defending fundamental civil rights has asked the country's top court to overturn controversial church legislation, amid concerns the law violates religious freedom and the constitutional separation of church and state.

Ombudsman Máté Szabó wants the Constitutional Court to acknowledge that "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," his office explained in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife Wednesday, August 15.

Under the recently adopted 'Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Communities' only 32 of over 300 faith groups in Hungary received formal recognition by Parliament to operate as churches.

The ombudsman found "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 inappealably on church status recognition."

He indirectly referred to devoted Christian groups and evangelical churches who were among those expressing concerns that Prime Minister Orbán's government would turn back the clock to the Communist-era of two decades ago, when religion was discouraged in Hungary.

"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," Szabó stressed.

He suggested that the law violates the constitution. "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," he said in a statement distributed by his office.

Jura Nanuk, the founder and president of the Central-European Religious Freedom Institute in Budapest welcomed the remarks. "Finally [there is] some light at the end of the tunnel," he added.

INTERNATIONAL CONCERNS

The United States and European Union have also expressed concerns about the church regulations and other acts introduced by the Orbán administration, saying they "threaten democratic checks and balances" and undermine previously independent institutions, ranging from media and the Central Bank, to churches.

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