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No new church law until autumn frustrates Hungarian minorities

The conservative Hungarian government has postponed until the autumn a redrafting of the controversial church law. 

SOURCES Idea Spektrum TRANSLATOR Nicky Seadon BUDAPEST 27 MARCH 2015 09:30 h GMT+1
view parliament budapest View of the Hungarian Parliament, in Budapest.

According to the Minister for Religious Affairs, Miklos Soltesz, negotiations are ongoing over the level of compensatory damages for minority churches. The latter had filed an action at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against being downgraded from state-approved religious groups to associations.



After the law of 1st January 2012 came into effect, instead of 300 church groupings, as previously, only 14 were recognised by the state. Included in this number, alongside Catholics, (official) Protestants and Orthodox Christians, were also Baptists and Unitarians.



 



ANGLICANS AND METHODISTS AFECTED



Amongst the churches which lost their official recognition were, most notably, denominations which do not have historical roots in Hungary, including Anglicans, the Salvation Army, Methodists and Mennonites.



In February 2012, after protests by Lutherans and members of the Reformed Church, the government registered a further 18 denominations as recognised churches.



16 small churches, for whom recognition was still refused, headed by the Mennonites, went to the European Court of Human Rights and won their case there in April 2014.



The Hungarian government declared that they respected the decision of the court; however, they did not wish to act hastily but to handle taxpayers' money carefully. The small churches had demanded as compensation from the state the equivalent of about 6.5 million Euros, which they had incurred as damages.



In Hungary citizens can give one percent of their income tax to an officially recognised church.     



 



LAW AGAINST TAX FRAUD



The previous law had the provision that a denomination required the agreement of two thirds of the Members of Parliament in order to gain official status. With the tightening of the law in 2012 the government intended to prevent associations from posing as churches and thereby gaining access to public funds.



Of the 10 million Hungarians about 55 per cent are Catholics, 16 per cent Reformed Protestants and 3 per cent Lutherans. 14.5 per cent do not belong to a denomination.


 

 


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