Religion and State in the Candidate Countries to the European Union: Issues concerning

Religion and State in Hungary
Author(s): Balázs Schanda
Source: Sociology of Religion, Vol. 64, No. 3, Special Issue (Autumn, 2003), pp. 333-348
Published by: Oxford University Press
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Sociology of Religon 2003, 64:3 333-348
Religion
and State in the Candidate
Countries to the
European
Union - Issues
Concerning Religion
and State in
Hungary
Balazs Schanda*
Lawyer, Hungarian
Government Secretaiat
for
Church
Relations;
Lecturer in Fc astical and Constitutional Law
at
Pdzidny Pter Catholic
University
and
Eotis
Lordnd
University
Cyprus, Malta,
and
eight former
Socialist
Central-European
countries are about to
join
the
European
Union. This will result in a
slight change
in the
religious composition of
the
enlarged
Union
as Muslims are
hardly present
and the
proortion of
Catholics is
higher
(and Protestants
lower)
in the
candidate countries than in the member states. The "new democracies" have elaborated new
systems
of
Church-State relations. Some have
followed
a two-tier
system, differentiating
between traditional
or
large religious
communities and other
religions;
other
countries,
such as
Hungary
and
Poland,
have
an
equal system for
all
religious
communities. Candidate countries are
unlikely
to
acquire
a bad
record
for
issues
of religious
freedom,
as
they adopted
their
legislation
in
conformity
to
European
human
rights
standards. All candidates to the 2004
enlargement, apart from Cyprus,
have bilateral
contractual relations with the
Holy
See. With an elaborated
policy of neutrality, Hungary
underlines
the
separation of
Church and State to a
greater
extent than most other candidate countries.
Separation
in
Hungary, however,
does not rule out
cooperation
between State and Church or
public
support for
Church institutions.
ECCLESIASTICAL SITUATION OF THE CANDIDATE
COUNTRIES TO THE EUROPEAN UNION
At
present
there are 12 countries that are candidates for inclusion in the
European
Union.
Negotiations
were
opened
with the Czech
Republic, Cyprus,
Estonia,
Hungary,
Poland and Slovenia in
1998,
after the
Luxembourg European
Council of December 1997 established the accession and
negotiation process.
The Helsinki
European
Council of December 1999 decided to
open negotiations
also with
Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta,
Romania and Slovakia in
February
2000. The status of
Turkey
as a candidate
country,
with all
rights
and duties and
its full
participation
in the accession
process,
was
recognized, although
there was
no decision on
opening negotiations.
The Nice
European
Council of December
2000 endorsed the
strategy proposed by
the
European
Commission in its
Strategy
*Diect
correspondence
to Balzs
Schanda,
1011
Budapest, Szdnyegu. 1., Hungary;
e-mail:
schandafreemail.hu
333
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334 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
Paper
and the
target
date for
membership
of the most
prepared
candidate
countries was set as 2004.
The Commission insisted that no further obstacles
should now be
put
in the
way
of the
process
of
expanding
the Union. It
specifically
reconfirmed the
European
Parliament's view that the
best-prepared
candidate countries should be able to
participate
in the 2004
European
Parliament elections. At the same
time,
the Commission endorsed the dis-
tinction that had been made between the
candidates,
while
confirming
the
'catch-up principle'
-
that those countries which were most
qualified
should be
allowed
entry,
and those not
yet adequately prepared
would have the
oppor-
tunity
of
preparing
themselves for
acceptance
at a later date.
According
to the
present stage
of
negotiations,
ten countries will have an
opportunity
to
join
the EU in the near future
(according
to the schedule in
2004).
In the Commission's
view, Bulgaria
and Romania will
definitely
need a
longer period
before accession
and,
as mentioned
above, negotiations
with
Turkey
have not
yet
been
opened.
In
my paper
I shall focus on the Central
European region
-
Cyprus
and
Malta are in a
very
different situation from these countries. With the exclusion
of the two Balkan States from the first
round,
all the candidates
(except
for
Cyprus)
have a
history
and an
identity
linked to Western
Christianity
(the
largely
secularized
countries,
such the Czech
Republic,
are also affected
by
this
affiliation:
or, rather,
a
rejection
of
it). Throughout
their
history,
these Central
European
countries have striven to be
recognized
as
belonging
to the western
part
of the continent. Their inclusion in an
enlarged
Union is not for them the
result of a cost-benefit
analysis
but, rather,
a moral issue. The
average
size of the
candidate countries
hoping
to
join
the EU is less than the
present
EU
average.
The
population
of Poland is more than the total
population
of all the other nine
countries
put together.
All the candidate countries of Central-Eastern
Europe
suffered communist
governance
for over four decades.
Religious
freedom was curtailed in them
all.
Certainly
there were
significant
differences between countries and
periods.
Probably
believers in the former Soviet Union suffered the most. The record
for
Czechoslovakia is
definitely
worse than that for Poland. Practices varied
from
open persecution
to administrative harassment and discrimination with
one
common element: there was no
religious
freedom as such.
Historical
backgrounds,
and the
process
and effects of
imposed
secularization
of the various societies show
great
differences. In Poland and in Lithuania,
Catholicism
played
a
significant
role in
safeguarding
the national consciousness;
the same was true for
Croatia,
which is to become a candidate for inclusion
in
the
European
Union in the near
future).
Slovenia also is
predominantly
Catholic.
Hungary
and Slovakia have a Catholic
majority,
with
firmly
estab-
lished Protestant minorities
(Calvinist
in
Hungary
and Lutheran in
Slovakia).
Estonia is the
only
candidate that is
predominately
Lutheran;
and Latvians are
divided between Catholics and Protestants.
Orthodoxy
in the candidate
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RELIGION AND STATE IN THE CANDIDATE COUNTRIES 335
countries is linked to national
minorities,
especially
the Russians in the Baltic
States. In the Baltic
States,
as well as in other countries
(such
as
Hungary),
a
jurisdictional
conflict
emerged
between the Moscow Patriarchate and the
Ecumenical Patriarchate of
Constantinople, raising
difficult issues
concerning
the limits of
legitimate government
involvement in inter-Church
disputes.
Denominational and ethnic affiliations also
overlap
in
Romania,
where members
of the
Hungarian
and German minorities are either Protestants or Roman
Catholics,
while the Romanians are
predominantly
Orthodox
(or,
in
parts
of
Transylvania,
Greek
Catholics).
The Czech
Republic
is
probably
the most
secular
country among
the
candidates,
and would in this
way
become the most
secularized
country
within the Union. But Estonians and Latvians are not
particularly
devout either
(not
to mention the new German
"Lander").
Taking
the
expanded
Union as a
whole,
it can be seen that the incor-
poration
of the new countries would result in a rise in the overall
proportion
of
Roman Catholics.
Apart
from
Bulgaria,
none of the candidate countries has a
significant
Muslim
population. Hungary
is the
only
candidate
country
where the
Jewish
community
has remained a
significant
mainstream
religious community.
New
religious
movements were active
throughout
the
region
in the
1990s,
but
their
presence
has not
brought
about
significant changes
in the denominational
landscape.
It should be noted that notions of church
membership vary
from
country
to
country,
as well as from denomination to denomination.
Consequently
it is not
possible
to make an accurate
comparison
between
membership
rates for the
various denominations. In some cases
only
the
registered
church members are
counted,
whereas in other countries it is cultural affiliation that is
accepted
as
church
membership.
Some countries
regard
those
having
no
religious
affiliation
as
atheists,
whereas in other countries
only
averred atheists
qualify
as such.
Churches
-
despite
the
heavy
losses
they
suffered
during
the communist
rule
-
were
among
the most
respected
and trusted social institutions at the time
of the transition. Freedom
opened
new
possibilities,
but also constituted a
challenge.
Churches needed to catch
up rapidly
with
developments
in the
world,
while their countries themselves were
changing rapidly.
At the same
time,
nostalgia played
a
significant
role as some Church members and conservative
forces strove to reconstruct
pre-war
structures.
A
special legal
status
permitting
the free exercise of
religion
(in
community
with
others)
is
usually
not
necessary,
but in most
European legal systems
there
exists a
special legal
status
enabling
full
participation
in social and
legal
affairs as
a
group.
Besides the
special rights coming
with
registration
or
recognition,
this
status
may
also
express
a kind of social
acceptance.
Some
countries,
such as
Hungary
and
Poland,
provide
the same
legal
status for all
religious communities,
whereas in others there is a two-tier
system.
In
Hungary
and in
Poland,
100
private
individuals can
register
as a
religious community,
and,
once
registered,
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336 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
the
religious
communities have
basically equal rights
and
obligations.1
When
comparing Hungary2
and Estonia3 with all other countries
offering
a
special
status for Churches and
religious
communities
through
the
registration
or
recog-
nition of
religious
communities,
a
significant
difference is that in
Hungary
and
Estonia
registration
is a formal court
procedure,
whereas in other countries it is
decided
by
a
governmental
executive.4 In Latvia the
Ministry
of
Religious
Affairs decides on
registration
of
congregations, religious
associations and
dioceses
(Balodis
2001:
25).
In
Slovenia,
recognized religious
communities
enjoy
equal rights;
the Office of the Government for
Religious
Communities
grants
private
law
legal entity
status in a
highly
formal
procedure,
without
examining
the contents of the
religion
or
judging
its merits
-
unlike
Croatia,
Austria and
Germany,
where the
major
Churches have
public
law
corporate
status,
which is
granted by
the executive after
scrutiny
of doctrines and
practices.5
Lithuania
differentiates between "traditional
religious
communities"6 and other
religious
communities,
which can have the status of
"Religious
Associations." In Romania
a new law on Churches is
being
drafted,
but at
present
a distinction is made
between
recognized
Churches and
religious
associations. In Slovakia there are
some
registered religious
communities,
but
getting
a
religious community regis-
tered as such is
extremely
difficult
(20,000
members are
required).
In the Czech
Republic
a
recently adopted
law
stipulates
that 300 citizens can found a Church
or a
Religious Society;
ten
years
after
recognition by
the
Ministry
of
Culture,
provided
that the activities of the Church do not raise
problems
and the
group
has
gathered
at least
O.lpercent
of the
population
(about 10,000 members),
it
may
be
granted
a set of
special rights
(such
as the
right
to maintain
schools,
to
offer
religious
education in
public
(state
or
municipal)
schools,
and to have
church
weddings legally acknowledged).7
The new Czech two-tier
system
is
1
For
Hungary
this is stated
by
Act IV/1990, § 15
(3);
for Poland
by
the Constitution,
article 25,
and the
Act on Freedom of Conscience and
Belief,
article 9, 17
May
1989.
2
Act
IV/1990,
section 8.
3
Churches and
Congregations
Act;
Passed 12
February
2002
(RT1 2002, 24, 135), entered into force 1
July
2002.
4 Act
cited,
article 33.
5
See the
ongoing controversy
over the status of
Jehovah's
Witnesses and Muslims in
Germany.
6
The "Traditional
religious
communities,"
which have a
history
of at least 300
years
in Lithuania,
are:
Roman Catholics,
Greek Catholics, Lutherans,
the Reformed Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, Old
Believers, Jews,
Sunni Muslims and Karaites
(Aliukate
and Glodenis 2001).
7
Legal
Act Nr.
3/2002
27 November 2001 on Freedom of
Religious
Confession and the Position of
Churches and
Religious
Societies and on the
changes
of some
legal
acts (Law
on Churches and
Religious
Societies).
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RELIGION AND STATE IN THE CANDIDATE COUNTRIES 337
similar to the Austrian model. Newer or smaller
religious
communities
may
obtain a
legal-entity
status as
Associations,
as in Romania.
Several
European
countries
provide special legal
status for a
privileged
Church or some mainstream
Churches,
while other
religious
communities have
a less favorable status. This is not a
question
of free exercise of
religion,
as this
right
is
accepted
for
all,
but of
equality.
While,
as noted
above,
Hungary
and
Poland,
provide
a
generally equal
scheme for
religious communities,
a closer look
reveals how
subsequent legislation
of details and of administrative
practice
can
create differences
-
or take
given
differences into consideration. One can
only
treat as
equal
that which is
equal,
but different realities have to be treated
differently.
Secular states have no mandate to take the differences in
religious
doctrines into consideration (and thus
provide
additional
protection
for the
followers of one or more
religions),
but differences in the social characteristics of
religious
communities can be taken into consideration when these
aspects
are
relevant. For
example,
when the state is
setting up
institutionalized
army
chaplaincies,
it
may
take into consideration the number of adherents of
religious
communities;
when
providing
subsidies for certain
activities,
such as the
reconstruction of church
buildings,
it
may single
out those that have
special
architectural
heritage protection
-
and so on.8
FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN THE CANDIDATE COUNTRIES
All the candidate countries discussed are
signatories
of the
European
Convention on Human
Rights,
which is enforced
by
a
supra-national
court,
the
European
Court of Human
Rights,
at
Strasbourg
-
indeed, signatories
of the
ECHR also
signed
a Protocol
accepting
the
jurisdiction
of the
Strasbourg
court.
Looking
at the case-law of the
European
Court of Human
Rights
that has
emerged, mostly
in the last ten
years,
the
following general
observations can be
made:
-
States have to make a
legal-entity
status available for
religious
communities9
-
but this
status does not have to be the same for all
communities;
-
democratic states can have no
legitimate
interest in not
respecting
the
autonomy
of
religious communities;10
-
religious
communities have to have a realistic
possibility
of
opening places
of
worship11
-
this does not mean that restrictions in this
respect
would all be
unjustifiable;
8
For additional information on Church and State in Central and Eastern
Europe
see Robbers
2001;
Danchin and Cole
2002;
Messner 2002. Several more
comparative
volumes are
being prepared
or are in
print.
9
Canea Caoic Church v. Greece.
(Judgment of
Dcember
16, 1997)
10
Serif
v. Greece
(udgement of December
14, 1999);
Hasan and Chaush v.
Bulgria. (Judgment
of
October
26, 2000).
11 Manoussais v. Greece.
(Judgeme
ofSeptember 26, 1996)
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338 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
church
property serving genuine religious purposes enjoys qualified protectionl2-
this
does not mean that all church
property
would be
respected
to the same extent;
when the manifestation of
religious
beliefs and the
protection
of the
rights
of others
concur,
the
way
beliefs are manifested and the circumstances are
open
to deter-
mination.-13
Generally,
the
Strasbourg
Court has
respected
the
historically
different
patterns
of Church-State relations. Recent
development
of case law
provides
a
common minimum standard for
Europe.
The candidate countries
generally
comply
with this
standard;
their record is not worse than the record of some
current member states of the
European Community.
The Orthodox notion of
"symphony"
of Church and State and the national character of the Orthodox
Churches has led to some
specific challenges
-
as,
for
example,
when Greece
has been troubled
by
laws that were
supposed
to
protect
its Church. At the same
time,
the cultural differences determined
by
the differences between Eastern and
Western
Christianity
need
understanding
and tolerance.
Of the candidate
countries,
only Bulgaria
has so far had cases
concerning
freedom of
religion
before the
European
Court of Human
Rights.
In the Hasan
ad Chaush case
(27/06/2000), government
involvement in the
autonomy
of
religious
communities
(the
Muslim
community
in this
case)
was deemed unne-
cessary
in a democratic
society
- a decision
very
much in line with the earlier
case of
Serif
v. Greece
(14/12/1999).
Another
Bulgarian
case ended with a
friendly
settlement: the
applicant
had been convicted and sentenced for
having
refused to serve in the
army only
because,
it was
argued,
Parliament had been
slow in
adopting
a law which was intended to establish substitute service for
conscientious
objectors,
despite
a constitutional
provision permitting
such
substitute service. The
applicant
(a
Jehovah's
Witness)
was condemned (on
the
old law which was still in
force)
for his refusal to serve in the
army.
The
legislation
was
changed only
after he had filed his
petition
with the
Strasbourg
Court. As his (and
all
other)
penalties
were
dismissed,
and his costs and
expenses
were
paid,
the settlement was
accepted by
the Court.14
Candidate countries are not
likely
to
gain
an
especially
bad record in issues
of
religious
freedom. One of
my
reasons for this assessment is that most of these
countries have
already
enacted new
legislation
on human
rights
issues, including
religious
freedom,
in the course of or soon after their transition to
democracy.
The norms and
practices
that
brought
other
countries,
particularly
Greece,
into
12
The Ho Monasteries v. Greece.
(udgement of
December
9, 1994)
13
Kokkinis v. Greece
(Judgent of May 25, 1993);
Larissis and Others v. Greece
(Judgement of February
24, 1998); Otto-PreniWer-Instut
v. Austria
(Judgment of September
20, 1994); Wingrove
v. United Kingdom
(JUudenof
Nowmber 25, 1996).
14
Stejmovv. Bullria (Judgement
of
May,
2001).
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RELIGION AND STATE IN THE CANDIDATE CONTRIES 339
trouble date back to times when the
present-day
notion of human
rights
was not
high
on the
agenda.
Basically
all the Constitutions in the
region
contain
provisions
for the
freedom of
religion
and on Church-State relations.
Special recognition
to one
(traditional, national)
religious community
at the level of the Constitution is
characteristic of the Orthodox countries
(except
Romania at
present). Separa-
tion of Church and State is
explicitly
stated in the Constitutions of
Bulgaria,
Croatia,
Hungary
and Latvia. The Slovak Constitution
recognises
that
religious
communities administer themselves
independently
of the state. Also the
Romanian Constitution
provides
for the
"independence"
of
religious
"cults"
from the state. The Polish Constitution follows the Italian model
by making
a
reference to its Concordat with the
Holy
See and a
system
of
agreed
laws
regulating
the
relationship
between the state and other
religious
communities. It
should be noted that
by
now all the Central
European
candidate countries to the
EU have entered into bilateral contractual relations with the
Holy
See
(de Agar
2001).
CHURCH AND STATE IN HUNGARY
The
legal
framework
Neutrality
can be seen as the most
important principle governing
the
Hungarian
State with
respect
to
religious
communities and other
ideological
organisations.
The state should remain neutral in matters
concerning ideology;
there should be no official
ideology
-
religious
or secular. The state should have
no
single ideological position,
however
'from
the
right
to
freedom
of religion,
follows
the state's
duty
to ensure the
possibility of free formation of personal
convic-
tions."15
Neutrality
means,
on the one
hand,
that the state should not
identify
itself with
any ideology
(or
religion),
and
consequently,
on the other
hand,
that
it must not be
institutionally
attached to Churches or to
any
one
single religion.
This shows that the
underlying
doctrine behind the
principle
of
separation
(explicitly
stated in the
Constitution)
is the
neutrality
of the state. It is to be
noted that
neutrality
has to be
distinguished
from
indifference,
which is not
what is meant
by
the Constitution
-
as follows from the
concept
of
neutrality
elaborated
by
the Constitutional Court.16
Neutrality
is not "laicism;" the state
may
have an active role in
providing
an institutional
legal
framework as well as
15
Decision 4/1993. (II. 12.)
AB. Note on abbreviaions used in
referencing Hungarian
Laws: Acts
of
Parliament are
referred
to as "Act No. Z.
of
the
year
X". Acts are numbered
widt
Roman
nunbers,
starting
ewry year
with I. Government decrees and the deision
of
the Constittional Court (AB) have numbers
(strting wih I
every
year)
and the
day of official promulgation
is shown. Acts and decrees have sections
(referred
to as:
§),
subsections
(referred
to with numbers: (1)) and
may
have
points (referred
to with leters: a)).
16
Decision
4/1993. (II. 12.)
AB.
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340 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
funds for the Churches in order to ensure the free exercise of
religion
in
practice.
The state should not enter into institutional
entanglement
with
any organiza-
tion that is based on
(a
religious
or
secular)
ideology.
Freedom of
religion
and
freedom from
religion
are
equally protected
-
neither case should be treated as
an
exception.
The
meaning
of
separation
can be
defined,
on the one
hand,
as
respect
of
the
autonomy
of the Churches ("the state must not
interfere
with the internal
workings of any
Church"17), and,
on the other
hand,
by
the
principle
stated in the
Law on
Religious
Freedom: "No state
pressure may
be
applied
in the interest
of
enforcing
the internal laws and rules
of
a Church."18
Religious
communities should
have no
opportunity
to make use of state
power.
The state should
respect
the
autonomy
of
religious organizations
and should not interfere with their internal
affairs. The state
provides
an
appropriate legal
status for
religious organizations,
and it
registers
those that meet the formal criteria.
Registered religious organiza-
tions all have the same
legal standing;
there should be no
privileged
or less
favoured
groups.
Different levels of accommodation are not
permissible
(the
more numerous
religions
have
practical advantages
-
adherents of smaller
communities
are,
for
example, likely
to have to travel further to find a service -
this, however,
is outside the
scope
of the
Constitution).
Following
the
Hungarian interpretation
of
separation
of Church and
State,
there can be no mixed institutions.
Theology
cannot be
integrated
into
public
universities (as
in
many
Central
European
States),
but Church-maintained insti-
tutions of
higher
education are funded
by
the state to ensure free
higher
education is available for those who
study theology. Religious
instruction is
carried out
by
the Churches and constitutes no
part
of the
public
curriculum
(contrary
to most
European
States); however,
state schools have to
provide
accommodation and time for
optional religious
instruction carried out on their
premises by
teachers
delegated
and
paid by
the Churches. In other
words,
strict
institutional
separation
does not rule out
co-operation
between Church and
State.
The state should
promote
an environment in which ideas and values
(not
to
be
judged by
the
state)
can be
bor.
The state has to
keep
itself
away
from the
world of ideas and
values, but,
at the same
time,
it should
appreciate
and
enhance their existence
(even
by using public
funds).
It should work out
legal-
ized
compromises
in issues where constitutional
rights
and interests come into
conflict.
Most cases that have arisen
concerning religious
freedom have been related
to the
interpretation
of non-establishment and
equality.
Free exercise of
religion
17
Decision 4/1993. (II. 12.)
AB.
18
Act IV/1990,
§ 15.
(2)
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RELIGION AND STATE IN THE CANDIDATE COUNTRIES 341
has not raised
any
controversies.
"Proselytism"
and
"foreign
missionaries" have
not been an issue.
The
cultural-political
framework
Mainstream Churches constituted
part
of the establishment of
Hungary
prior
to World War II.
During
communism
religious
freedom was curtailed: the
life of believers was characterised in the 1950s
by open persecution,
and later
by
administrative harassment and discrimination. After the transition from com-
munist rule and the restoration of
religious freedom,
the new
regulations
deter-
mining
Church-State relations soon became the
subject
of heated discussion.
While conservative elites tried to
give
more
space
to
(traditional)
Churches to
support
the reconstruction of
society,
secular elites had little
understanding
of
the Churches' demands. Public debates were
coming up
on a
fairly regular
basis
on such issues as the status of
Churches;
the status of
religious instruction;
the
funding
of Church schools and Churches in
general;
the restitution of
confiscated Church
property;
the inclusion of
religious
affiliation in the
census;
public acknowledgement
of church
weddings,
and so on. In most of these
debates,
which were
largely
conducted in the
media,
the Churches had little to
say
-
they
were more concerned about the renewal of their internal structures
than in
engaging
in debates in an area with which
they
were not familiar and
where
they
could not
expect
much
understanding
from
journalists
who were
alienated from the
religious
scene. The debates were
hardly
ever to the
point,
but
expressed general
fears and the desires of
political
elites
-
rather than those
of Churches. At a different
level,
the
legal
framework of
religious
activities
proved
to be
surprisingly
coherent and
stable,
despite political changes
(the
country
had a
centre-to-right government
from 1990 to
1994,
a social-liberal
one between
1994 and
1998,
then a centre-to
right government again
from 1998
to
2002,
when the centre-to-left coalition returned to
power). Legislation
and
constitutional
litigation
resulted in more balanced
compromises
than is often
suggested
in
public
discussion.
LEGISLATIVE ISSUES AND CONTROVERSIES
CONCERNING RELIGION IN HUNGARY
The Law on Churches
The Law on the Freedom of Conscience and
Religion
and the Churches was
passed
in 1990.
According
to this
Law,
"Those
following
the same
religious beliefs
may, for
the
purpose of exercising
their
religion,
set
up
a
religious
community, religious
denomination or Church
(hereinafter together referred
to as
"Church")
with a
self-
government.
(
.
.) Churches
may
be
founded
for
the
pursuance of
all
religious
activities which are not
contrary
to the Constitution and do not violate the law." The
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342 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
registration
of Churches is done
by
the
county
courts (in the same
way
as with
associations,
political parties
or
foundations).
The
requirements
were
highly
formal: Churches
registered prior
to 1990 were
re-registered automatically;
other
religions wishing
to be
registered
needed to submit the names of 100
private
individuals as
founding members,
and a charter
(containing
at least the
name,
the
headquarters address,
the internal
organizational
structure and
specifying
those internal units of the Church that
enjoy legal entity
status)
and it has to
have an elected
system
of administration and
representation.
The founders also
have to submit a declaration that there is a
system
of election for those who
administer and
represent
the
religion,
and that the
organization they
have set
up
has a
religious
character and its activities
comply
with the Constitution and the
law
(sections 8-9).
All Churches that are
registered
have the same
rights
and the
same
obligations. Equality, however,
is a matter of
legal
status and not of social
significance.
As the Constitutional Court stated:
"Also,
treating
the Churches
equally
does not exclude
taking
the actual social roles
of
the individual Churches into
account."19
The
present system
of
registration
of
religious
communities has been the
target
of criticism almost since the law on Churches was
passed
in 1990.
Many
representatives
of traditional Churches felt offended at
having
been
put
into the
same
legal category
as "sects." Some Protestant
ecclesiologists
claimed a
separate
status in
public
law for the mainstream communities
(Boleratzky
1998:381)
-
which (as
public legal
entities are established
by
law and
they
can make use of
state
power)
would
hardly comply
with the
principle
of
separation
as elaborated
in recent
years.
It is true that an
unexpectedly large
number of "Churches" has
been
registered
(over
a hundred
by
2002)
and in a number of cases the
religious
nature of these
organisations
is
questionable
-
the debates over whether
Scientology
can be
regarded
as a
religion
is well
known,
but UFO-cults and
associations of witches could also be mentioned as
examples
of
ways
in which
the breadth of
qualifications
for
eligibility
have been contested. In 1993 and
again
in
1998,
some individual Members of Parliament submitted motions to
change
the law. The
changes
would have
required raising
the
necessary
mini-
mum number of a
religious organization's
founders to
10,000
and its
presence
in
Hungary
to have been at least 100
years
- one or other of which
requirements
would be
necessary
for
registration. They
would, furthermore,
have
imposed
the
additional
requirement
of
submitting
a creed with the
registration,
and
stipu-
lating
that this should not violate the
public
order, health,
or morals or the
rights
of others. These motions did not
get
as far as
being put
on the Parliament-
ary agenda;
but their
presence
contributed to the discussion of the status of
Churches. The
easy accessibility
of the
legal entity
of "Church" has turned out
to
be,
in
fact,
an invitation to various controversial
groups
(and
even some
19
ActIV/1990,
§
15.
(3)
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RELIGION AND STATE IN THE CANDIDATE COUNTRIES 343
dubious commercial
undertakings)
to
get
this
privileged
status. The
government
in
power
between 1998 and 2002 intended to
change
the
Law,
but with the
tense situation in domestic
politics
at that
time,
it did not
manage
to
gather
the
two-thirds
majority
that would have been
necessary
for the Amendment. The
government
draft had
provided
for a definition of
religion
that would have been
applicable
for both the
registration
and
deregistration procedures: "Concerning
the
application
of the
provisions
of this Act on the
registration
of
Churches,
such a world-view can
qualify
as a
religion
if it refers to a transcendent
entity,
has a structured set of
beliefs,
its doctrines focus on
reality
as a whole and it
encompasses
the
totality
of the
personality
with its
particular
behavioural re-
quirements
which do not violate morals and human
dignity."
Furthermore,
"...
those
activities,
which are
primarily
and
dominantly
of a
a, political
and
interest-representing;
b, psychic, parapsychology
and
healing;
c, economic-entrepreneurial
(for
the
purpose
of material
profit);
d, educational-teaching;
e, culture-mediating;
f,
social and health
care;
and a
g, sporting,
child- and
youth-protection nature,
do not
qualify
as a
religious activity."
Certainly many
such activities are
legitimate,
even as activities of a
Church,
but
only
as
secondary
activities
alongside
a
genuinely religious
character. The
decision on
registration,
or deletion from the
register;
would have been taken in
court as due
process
- as would have been the decision as to how the activities
of a
given group
were
qualified
as
primarily religious or,
for
example,
educa-
tional).
That
is, registration
would be
undergone
in one central court in
Budapest,
rather than in
every county
court,
in order to ensure the
consistency
of the
practice
(Schanda 2000).
The
group seeking registration
would have had
to submit its basic
religious
doctrines
-
not in order that
they
should be
reviewed,
but so that
they
could be made
public.
Furthermore,
as the law
stands,
the
prosecutor
has the
right
to file a
lawsuit,
but has no
right
to obtain
information that could be used for
launching
the lawsuit
-
the Amendment
would, however,
have
given
the Public Prosecutor the
right
to obtain documents
and data
concerning
the lawful
operation
of the
group.20
However,
as the Bill
did not attain the
necessary
two-thirds
majority
in
Parliament,
the Amendment
was not
passed.
It should once more be stressed that the
practice
of
religion,
either in
private
or in
public,
either alone or with
others,
is not
subject
to
any
kind of
legal
status
or structure.
Groups registered
as 'associations'
-
and
groups
that are not
registered
at all
-
enjoy
the same freedom as
registered groups. They
have,
in
20
This does not
apply
to
crimes,
which are deemed to be committed
by
individuals,
and their
prosecution
has no effects on the Church itself.
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344 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
other
words,
exactly
the same
right
to manifest their beliefs as those
groups
that
have the
legal
status of a "Church."21
Data
protection
and statistics
Data on
religious
conviction are considered to be sensitive.22 Data
referring
to an individual's
religious
beliefs must not be entered into official records.
This,
however,
does not rule out
surveys
for scientific or
public purposes
if
giving
an
answer is not
mandatory
and the answers are
anonymous.23
In the census taken
on 1
January
2001, religious
affiliation was added to the
questions
-
with the
special
remark that
responding
was
optional.
About 10
percent
of those
ques-
tioned did not
give
an
answer,
while 14.5
percent
declared
they
did not have a
religious
affiliation,
55
percent
of the total
population
claimed to be Catholic
(3
percent
Greek
Catholic,
52
percent
Roman
Catholic),
16
percent
Reformed
(Calvinist)
and
just
over 3
percent
Lutheran. All other denominations
together
made
up
less than 2
percent
of the
population
(the
more numerous
among
them
being
the
Jehovah's
Witnesses
(20,000),
Baptists
(17,000)
and various Orthodox
Churches
(14,000 altogether). Jews
and adherents of some "new
religious
move-
ments" claim to be
heavily over-represented among
those not
responding
to the
question
about their
religion.
New
religious
movements
-
the Faith Church
Together
with the
Jehovah's
Witnesses,
the Faith Church
emerged
as a
significant
non-mainstream
community.
This
charismatic-evangelical
Protestant
group
was
particularly rapid
in its
growth
in the
early
1990s. Whereas most
emerging religious
communities did not attract much
attention,
the Faith
Church
challenged
the settled
landscape
of Church-State relations. The reason
for this was the
rapid
institutionalisation and
political
zeal of this
community.
The Faith Church utilised the
receptive legal
environment for
institutionalising
its activities
(for
example,
it maintains both an
elementary
school and a
high
school,
and an accredited
theological college,
and it has commissioned the
building
of a number of
places
of
worship,
the construction of its
largest
con-
ference centre
being
co-funded
by
the state
budget
in the
years
of the social-
liberal coalition between 1995 and 1998 and
by
the
significant
contribution of
voluntary
donations of the
members).
The Faith Church has been
heavily
21
Decision No.
8/1993. (II. 27.)
AB.
22
Act LXIII/1992 (on the Protection of Personal Data and the
Publicity
of Data of Public Interest) §
2.2.
23
Decision
72/1992. (XII. 28.)
AB.
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RELIGION AND STATE IN THE CANDIDATE COUNTRIES 345
engaged
in
politics
on the side of a liberal
party
(the
Alliance of Free Democrats
-
SZDSZ).
After the social-liberal coalition lost
power
in 1998 and some
prominent
members of the
congregation
left the
Church,
an overheated
public
debate
began
on the activities of the Faith
Church,
with its members inter-
preting
the
political pressure (hearings
in
Parliament,
tax
investigation
etc.)
and
the
public
attention that
they
were
receiving
as an attack on their
religious
beliefs and
practice.
More
recently, public
interest has turned
away
from the
congregation,
and the Church has
given up
much of its
political
zeal.
The
funding of religious
communities
Between 1990 and
1997,
Churches received a direct
subsidy
from a
budget
distributed
by
Parliament.
Although many agreed
that this
system
was not
compatible
with
separation,
the introduction of a new
system
was
highly
con-
tentious and
hotly
debated. One of the sources of conflict was that Parliament
passed
a Law on "the use of a certain
part
of
personal
income tax in accordance
with the
[wishes for]
disposal
of the
tax-payer"24
in a
period
when intensive
negotiations
about financial issues were
being
held with the
Holy
See. The Law
that was
passed
in 1996
provided
for the
option
of
deciding
on the destination of
one
percent
of one's income
tax,
which the
taxpayer
could choose to
go
to either
a Church or an NGO
-
thus
making
all kinds of
non-profit organizations
and
the Churches
competitors.
The Churches felt offended
by
this
system
and the
mainstream Churches asked their followers to
boycott
the
system. Following
the
agreement
with the
Holy
See in
1997,
the Law was
changed
and since 1998 a
second "one
percent"
of income tax has been made available for
disposal by
taxpayers
to fund Churches on
top
of the one
percent
reserved for NGOs. That
is,
taxpayers
can decide about the allocation of two
percent
of their income tax:
one
percent
for a Church of their choice and one
percent
for an NGO of their
choice.)
The
Hungarian system gives
a
percentage
of the income tax of each individ-
ual
taxpayer
and not of the total revenue of the income tax. This differs some-
what from the situation in
Italy
where the
taxpayers
have "votes" and so decide
on the allocation of their share of 0.8
percent
of the total tax collected. In
Hungary
each and
every taxpayer
decides on the distribution of the two
percent
of his or her
personal
income tax.25 The
average
one
percent
of the income tax
24
Act CXXVI1996.
25
In
Italy
the 0.8
percent
of the income tax is distributed to the Churches whether or not individual
taxpayers
make a choice about where
they
want their
proportion
to
go.
For those not
deciding,
the state
distributes the
money according
to the
proportions
of the
assignments.
In
Hungary, only
a few
people
make a
decision, so the
budget supplements
the sum
originating
from the
assignments up
to 05
percent
of the state
revenue from income tax. This
supplement
was distributed between the Churches
according
to the
proportion
of the
assignments.
From 2003 the
money
from the tax
assignments
will be
supplemented
with
up
to 0.8
percent
of the
budgeted
income from the income
tax,
and it will be distributed
according
to the
proportions
of
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346 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
per taxpayer assigned
to a Church varied in 2000 from
1,862
HUF
(Jehovah's
Witnesses)
to
20,693
HUF
(Anglican-Episcopalian
Church
-
58
supporters);
on
average,
a Catholic
taxpayer
would
support
his or her Church with
3,407
HUF, a Reformed Church member with
3,538
HUF, a Lutheran with
3,949
HUF,
and a
Jew
with
7,303
HUF.26
TABLE 1
"One
percent
Tax
Assignments"
of
Hungarian Churches,
Tax Years 1997-2001
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Catholic Church
318,798 310,841 334,406 357,160
333,951/4,016
Reformed Church
93,813 102,329 107,650
116,073
111,000/4,128
Lutheran Church 27,432
29,002 30,624 33,217 33,160/4,575
Jewish Community 2,738 5,114 5,827 5,950 6,426/8,432
Faith Church 12,789 8,837
8,237 9,238 9,905/2,700
Jehovah's
Witnesses 4,398
4,906 5,480 5,789 5,702/2,190
Baptist
Church 2,952 3,175 3,383
3,889 3,983/4,115
Adventist Church 1,140 1,242 1,315 1,302 1,437/3,052
Ch. Advent Comm.
1,078 1,047 1,006 1,071 1,129/3,401
Pentecostal Comm.
1,125 1,230 1,295 1,422 1,283/2,653
Unitarian Church
1,088 1,618 1,560 1,760 1,823/6,558
ISKCON
1,158 5,720 5,523 4,432 5,094/4,523
Karma Buddhists
1,056 2,063 2,094 2,085 2,284/5,561
Christ is Love
-
1,222 1,377 1,700 1,689/2,387
Transylvanian Cong.
499 1,180
1,239 1,238 1,318/5,298
Buddhist Comm. 316 826 948
1,051 1,142/5,571
Total 478,181
493,052 524,867 561,660 538,708/4,127
The table shows the Churches that received more than
1,000
declarations. The total number
of
taxpayers
is about 4.2 to 4.3 million
persons. Approximately
half the
taxpayers
fill in a tax
report,
whereas the
employer
does so on behalf of the other half. The 2001 column also shows the
average
value of
assignments
in
Hungarian
Forints.
The 2001 data are
preliminary;
final results are
usually
about 0.5
percent higher. Assignments
from a tax
year
are due
by
March of the
following year. Funding
is
according
to the
assignments
of
the
previous year.
These first
years
of the
system
are of an
experimental
character. For the first
four
years
the law
provided
two transitional
guarantees
to ensure the
funding
of
adherents established
by
the census (rather
than that established
by
the tax
assignments)
-
that is,
the
supplement
will reflect the denominational
proportions
of the whole
population,
not
only
that of the
taxpayers.
This has resulted in
opposition
from a number of
quarters, including
some
minority religious groups,
who claim that
using
data collected on an
optional
basis will be unfair. It
might
be noted, however,
that the
census results were unknown at the time the Amendment was
enacted,
but the
tendency
is clear: whereas 63
percent
of the tax
assignments
would be for the benefit of the Catholic Church, according
to the
census,
73
percent
of those
claiming
to adhere to a Church identified themselves as Catholics.
26
There are around 250
Hungarian
Forints
(HUF)
to one US dollar.
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RELIGION AND STATE IN THE CANDIDATE COUNTRIES 347
Churches. First: the
budget supplements
the
money coming
from the
assign-
ments
up
to 0.5
percent
of the total state revenue from income tax. This
funding
is distributed
among
the various denominations
according
to the
proportion
of
the
assignments.
The second transitional
guarantee
is that for the first four
years
all Churches receive from the
budget
at least the sum
they
used to receive as a
direct
budget subsidy prior
to the new
system.
That is: the revenue of the
Churches cannot be less in the first four
years
of the
system
than the direct state
support
was in 1998.
The above data indicate that
only
about 15
percent
of
taxpayers
fill in the
tax
assignment.
Churches need to
campaign
for their
money,
advertise,
etc. to
motivate their flock to
assign
their one
percent.
The number of new com-
munities is far from
stable; some have
managed
to double the number of their
supporters,
but this does not mean that
they
have doubled the number of their
members.
Besides the tax
assignment system,
traditional Churches not
claiming
back
confiscated
buildings may
seek
compensation,
which
provides
them with an
additional source of income. Churches also receive
support
to fund
religious
education carried out
by
them at schools
(on
an
optional
basis)
or on their own
premises. Projects
of renovation of the architectural
heritage
of Churches are
subsidized
by
the
budget
as well.
Furthermore,
donations to Churches
enjoy
taxation benefits.
Despite
all these various channels of
public funding,
the vast
majority
of the
operational
costs at the
local,
parish
level are covered
by
the
voluntary
donations of the
membership.
In the
budget
of traditional Churches education now
plays
a more
signi-
ficant role than other
religious
activities. Pursuant to the relevant
provisions
of
law,
Churches
performing public
activities are
granted
from the
budget support
per capita
that is at the same level as the
funding granted
to
public
institutions
for the same
purpose.27
As some
political
activists did not
accept
this
principle
of
equal funding,
the matter was
brought
before the Constitutional
Court,
which
decided that the
principle
of
equal funding
is a
consequence
of an
interpretation
of the Constitutional
position
on
religious
freedom and non-discrimination.28
CONCLUSION
With the fall of
communism,
laws became obsolete and
many
countries in
Central- and Eastern
Europe
(the
Czech
Republic, Hungary, Lithuania,
Poland
and
Slovenia)
introduced new laws on the
subject
of
religious
freedom. In some
countries
(Bulgaria,
Romania and
Slovakia)
the old
legislation
is still in
force,
but new
legislation
is
being prepared
27
Act
IV/1990. § 19(1).
28
Decision
22/1997. (IV. 25). AB, ABH
1997,
107.
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
348 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
Religious
freedom is
generally respected throughout
the
region.
The models
of
religious
freedom
correspond
to the standards embodied in the
European
Court of Human
Rights.
Differences in the
approach
to
religious
issues are
visible between countries
having
an Orthodox
heritage
and those that have
been
historically shaped by
Western
Christianity
(Catholicism
and Protestant-
ism).
Among
the
latter,
Hungarian legislation
is characterized
by
a
high degree
of
liberalism,
despite
diverse social attitudes
concerning religious
issues.
REFERENCES
de
Agar, J.
M. 2000. RaccoLa di concodati
1950-1999;
Citta del Vaticano.
2001. I concodati de
2000,
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Boleratzky,
L. 1998. A
magyar evangilikus egyhdjog alapjai
es
forrdsai,
II.
resz (The
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Hungaian
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Budapest,
Ordass
Lajos
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edited
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