Hungary has enacted Europe’s harshest religion law. Photo: Alexandra Lande/Shutterstock
On Jan. 1, a new Hungarian constitution took effect, ushered in by the centre-right Fidesz government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The new constitutional order entails a restrictive law on the status of faith groups, creating only 14 state-recognized groups out of 358 and basically decertifying the rest.
Despite protests by hundreds of evangelical Christians, the new year saw hundreds of mainly tiny denominations lose their official status, and with it their tax exemptions and capacity to run state-supported schools.
Approved churches include traditional Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran and Orthodox congregations, as well as some Jewish groups.
Among the religions denied state approval are all versions of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Baha’i, as well as many smaller Catholic orders, including the Benedictines, Marists, Carmelites and Opus Dei. Also included in the decertification are such Protestant denominations as Episcopalians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Methodists and all but one evangelical church.
As for Judaism, only one each of the orthodox, conservative and liberal synagogues are recognized; all other Jewish congregations are not.
Newer evangelical churches as well as Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu religious groups can apply for parliamentary recognition if they are at least 100 years old or have operated in Hungary for at least 20 years.
Observers feel the law bodes ill for Hungarian human rights in general.