While the government claims they are merely attempting to reduce tax fraud one legistlator with the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) believes that the restrictions that have allowed only 32 of 300 faith groups to receive formal recognition from Parliament are actually a violation of religious and human rights. These laws appear to “revive Communist-era rhetoric, demanding that recognized churches must ‘not pose a risk to national security’ and ‘cooperate with government agencies for community purposes’.”
By Stefan J. Bos
07/11/2013 Hungary (Bos News) – In a major shift from their past policies Hungary’s former Communists, now Socialists, want the country’s top court to overturn religious legislation that they claim will make it difficult for smaller congregations to be recognized as churches and threatens social programs and religious education.
Legislator Ildikó Lendvai told reporters that her Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) would ask Hungary’s top official for human rights, the ombudsman, to turn to the Constitutional Court if President János Áder signs what is known as the ‘Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Community.’
In comments, monitored by BosNewsLife Wednesday, July 10, Lendvai expressed concerns that the required minimum membership of recognized churches will be raised from 1,000 to 10,000, while “there is no opportunity to appeal against a rejection of a group’s church status” by Parliament.
She also warned that authorities would be allowed to monitor the number of members of a church “raising data protection concerns”.
Under the legislation only 32 of over 300 faith groups in Hungary received formal recognition by Parliament to operate as churches.
The Constitutional Court said recently that the legislation failed to “stipulate that detailed reasons” must be provided when a request for church status is refused, but Parliament, controlled by the right-wing Fidesz party, voted again last month for the slightly changed law.
“The ‘church law’ is bad for all the parties it affects,” Lendvai said, using the short name often used for the religious legislation.
She claimed the measures could also harm larger programs of traditional churches, including the Catholic, Reformed and Lutheran denominations, because details of religious education or the demand to work with government agencies were not clear.
The adjusted law appears to revive Communist-era rhetoric, demanding that recognized churches must “not pose a risk to national security” and “cooperate with government agencies for community purposes”.
Though Lendvai acknowledged that the changed law allows any religious organization to call itself “church”, she said state subsidies would be restricted to recognized ones.