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Free church in free state - Conference on the issue of freedom of religion in Hungary

news 2015-01-20 | Fb Sharing

On the 3rd of October, 2014 a conference was held on the issue of freedom of religion in Hungary organized by Eötvös Károly Policy Institute.

On the 3rd of October, 2014 a conference was held on the issue of freedom of religion in Hungary organized by Eötvös Károly Policy Institute. The conference took place in the splendid Goldberger palace, the seat of Open Society Archives.

The title of the event was “Free church in free state” referring to the famous phrase of Ferenc Deák, the Hungarian statesman and the whole program reflected to the recently adopted amendments concerning the regulation of freedom of religion.  The performers shared their thoughts mainly in connection with the new act on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Legal Status of Churches, Religious Denominations and Religious Communities. Summarizing briefly the changes implemented by the Act above, a civil association may be recognized as a church only by the Parliament, and all churches other than those listed in the Annex of the Act are deprived of their acquired and established rights. The act established new requirements of gaining legal status as a church, discriminating between existing denominations and breaching the principle of the separation of State and Church.

After the registration of the participants the event was opened by the speech of László Majtényi, the chairman of the institute. The first presentation was held by the head of the Constitutional Court, Péter Paczolay. The conference was divided in to two panels – the first moderated by László Majtényi dealt with the general matters of freedom of religion in Hungary in regard to the discussion paper written and disseminated earlier by the Institute. The participants of the first panel were Gábor Viktor Orosz, János Wildmann, Péter Hack and Gábor Schweitzer.  Gábor Viktor Orosz, theologian spoke about the art of distinction and the collective freedom of religion. After him, another acknowledged theologian, János Wildmann presented his thesis on giving up the moral neutrality of state from the aspect of political science of the religion. Péter Hack, lawyer put in perspective the changes of the regulation of freedom of religion from the democratic transition until the new church act, and finally, Gábor Schweitzer, lawyer gave his remarks to our discussion paper.

The second panel concentrated mainly on current issues. The moderator was Jenő Szigeti, a theologian, organizer of several previous conferences in the field of freedom of religion. The first presenation held by Szilvia Köbel processed the questions regarding the legal status of religious communities. After that, Ferenc Ruzsa the Buddhist thinker went on with his presentation titled “All churches are business” for the loud appreciation of the audience. The last two presentations were held by experienced lawyers. Júlia Mink started an interesting discussion on the tendencies leading to the pluralist version of state churches and Szabocs Hegyi summarized the situation following by the recent decision of European Court of Human Rights on the Hungarian Church Act.

The closing act of the conference was a roundtable moderated by Bernadette Somody, the director of the institute with the participation of the speakers experienced in the field of law.

Approximately 70 people participated the conference and the event gained relevant media attention. Evening news of ATV, a commercial television company broadcasted an interview with László Majtényi and Szabolcs Hegyi and the main say of Péter Paczolay was published in significant online newspapers as well as on the website of the constitutional court.

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