David Baer: The fate of Hungary’s deregistered churches

H. David Baer is associate professor of theology and philosophy and chairman of  Texan Lutheran University’s Department of Theology, Philosophy, & Classical Languages. He received his doctorate from the University of Notre Dame in 1999, a master of theological studies from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in 1992, and a bachelor of arts from Oberlin College in 1990. He has spent a considerable amount of time in Hungary and speaks the language fluently. He is also the author of  a book on a Hungarian topic: The Struggle of Hungarian Lutherans under Communism (2006). An exchange of letters that was published between David Baer and the Archbishop of Veszprém Gyula Márfi created quite a stir in Hungary. The letters can be read on Hungarian Spectrum.

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One of the Hungarian government’s central arguments justifying the new religion law was that the previous law had created a situation of abuse, where businesses could register themselves as churches in order to receive tax benefits and state subsidy. According to the government there were more than 300 churches operating in Hungary in 2011.

The Venice Commission opinion on Hungary’s religion law refers to 300 previously registered churches repeatedly, and states that “according to the Hungarian authorities, the previous regulation had created an ‘untenable situation’ in which more than 300 churches were registered.” (par. 13); also “one of the main justifications for this new Act is the need to prevent the so-called ‘business churches’ from abusing the possibility of receiving public funding” (par. 17).

Three hundred churches does seem like a high number in a European country of ten million people, at least if measured in comparison with other European countries. A list of registered churches provided by Hungary’s constitutional court identifies 366 churches. Looking at the list more closely, however, one discovers that many of the “churches” are really religious institutions belonging to the same church. For example, in addition to the Magyar Katolikus Egyház (Hungarian Catholic Church) one finds Magyar Kurir Szerkesztősége (Editorial Board of Magyar Kurir, which is a Catholic newspaper), Magyar Katolikus Püspöki Konferencia (Hungarian Catholic Bishops Conference), and Magyar Katolikus Püspöki Konferencia Titkársága (Secretariat of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops Conference). A synod of the Reformed Church is also listed (the American equivalent of a Hungarian synod would be the national general assembly of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in America), as well as a nursing home that appears to be operated by the Reformed Church.

Numerous Catholic religious orders are listed separately. Although I don’t know the reason religious institutions are listed separately as churches in the list provided by the constitutional court, the answer probably has to do either with tax purposes (perhaps each of these institution had a separate tax number that could be identified on income tax forms to receive the 1%), or with state subsidy (perhaps the list identifies institutions receiving state subsidy). I was able to get a hold of a registry of churches published in 2007 by the Ministry of Education and Culture (Oktatási és Kulturális Minisztérium). This registry lists 159 distinct churches/religious communities, and then has additional sections identifying schools, religious orders, and other institutions operated by those churches/religious communities. Clearly there were not 300+ distinct and separate churches in Hungary prior to the new law, but only about half that number. I suspect the repeated references to 300+ were part of a disinformation campaign intended to bolster the claim that the previous registration law was too lax and being abused by “business churches.”

Church steeple / flickr

The Venice Commission opinion also reports that deregistered churches, “will be qualified as ‘associations’ as of 1 January 2012. They will have to declare their intention to continue or discontinue their activity by 29 February 2012 and initiate a registration process as ‘religious associations’ by 30 June 2012. The failure to meet this deadline will result in forfeiture of their right to register” (par. 87). This information is not accurate. In fact the situation is much worse than described in the Venice Commission opinion.

Sixty-seven churches had their applications to be registered as churches rejected without explanation by Parliament. During a recent visit to Hungary I was able personally to visit representatives of a number of these communities and establish contact with others via email (although I did not manage to speak with all 67 communities). The legal situation of deregistered communities is extremely unclear and it was difficult for me to get a complete picture. The groups I met with were themselves uncertain about their legal status. A lot of the things I have heard would need to be checked with Hungarian lawyers, and unfortunately, as of yet I haven’t been able to find a Hungarian lawyer familiar with the relevant laws who could answer all my questions. Even with these caveats, however, I am confident in stating that many religious groups in Hungary are being denied basic aspects of the right to religious freedom. Almost all of the groups I met with are preparing for the possibility of “going underground” and functioning illegally. Representatives of a number of different communities stated to me that as far as they were concerned things are as bad as the Kádár era.

All of the laws regarding civil associations have been rewritten. As one person told me, the new laws are not completely compatible with each other, and in the absence of legal precedent, neither the lawyers nor the judges are certain what the state of the law actually is. One thing, however, seems clear: there is no provision in Hungarian law for religious associations per se. Contrary to what was presented to the Venice Commission, deregistered churches were not qualified as “associations” and then given the opportunity to qualify as “religious associations.” Deregistered churches were stripped of all legal standing and told to apply for recognition as associations. Moreover, failure to meet the deadline for registration would not merely result in “forfeiture of their right to register,” but in liquidation of the religious community’s assets (végelszámolás) without legal successor. In effect, this means the state will appropriate the community’s property. Also, if the court rejects a deregistered church’s application to be an association, the property of the community is to be liquidated without legal successor. In one instance, the court has already ordered a church’s liquidation. I know of only one case where the court has accepted a community’s application for association; in all other cases I know about the court has asked that the applications be supplemented with further material (hiánypótlás).

However, even if these religious communities are accepted as associations, they will be subjected to regulations that violate the right of religious freedom. First, civil associations are required to have a certain administrative structure. They must have a presidency (elnökség) and all members must have the right to vote on decisions made by the association. Clearly this violates the internal autonomy of religious groups. If the Catholic Church had somehow failed to be registered as a church, it would now be required to do away with its bishops and submit all organizational decisions to a vote by its members. The Reformed and Lutheran Churches would have to do away with their presbyteries and legislative synods.

Second, the membership of civil associations must be made public – although I am not clear about how strictly and broadly this must be done. In any case, when I asked people whether the members of their community were afraid of having their membership become public, I was repeatedly told, yes. In cases where members of deregistered churches hold jobs as civil servants, they are afraid of government retaliation for being associated with a rejected church. Also, Hungary’s right-wing extremist political party, Jobbik, is relatively strong and could conceivably end up in a coalition with Fidesz. Many of the deregistered churches work with Roma or are comprised largely of Roma. Other communities are perceived as friendly toward Jews. The members of such communities have reasonable grounds to be afraid of targeted violence against them should their identities become public.

Third, my understanding is that associations are subject to a different set of accounting laws. Unlike churches, they need to keep a public record of where their money comes from. Thus, they are not permitted to collect donations. Most Christian churches have a public offering during worship services where those attending can put money in a basket. This sort of collection is not permitted for associations, because there is no record of who donated the money.

Fourth, my understanding is that only certain types of civil associations are permitted to maintain schools and charity organizations. I’ve been told that the law distinguishes between civil associations and non-profit associations (közhasznú egyesület). Only non-profit associations are allowed to maintain public service institutions (e.g., schools, homeless shelters, etc.). Many deregistered churches run such public service institutions, thus if they are to continue their work, they will need to be recognized as non-profit associations. The leader of one religious group told me that they decided to shut down a small school they operated for children with disabilities as well as a Roma mission, because they feared their application for non-profit association might be rejected, in which case the court would order the liquidation of all their property. They decided it was safer to apply simply to be a civil association in the hope of at least retaining their places of worship. One of the most prominent deregistered churches is headed by the Methodist pastor Gábor Iványi. Iványi’s church operates approximately 15 schools throughout Hungary dedicated to educating Roma. His church also maintains a large homeless shelter in Budapest. If the court should reject his church’s application to be a non-profit association, my understanding is that all of these institutions will be liquidated, i.e, appropriated by the state.

Fifth, civil associations are not allowed to own agricultural land (termőföld). This has relevance mostly for religious groups that want to maintain monastic communities or retreat centers. Hungary’s Hare Krishna community owns a sizeable amount of agricultural land on which they raise sacred cows. Although originally denied church status, Parliament registered them as a church in a second round of voting in late February 2012. If the Hare Krishna had been denied church status, all of their land would have been appropriated by the state. One representative of a non-recognized religious community told me that he had been hoping to purchase a small piece of agricultural land for retreat purposes at some point. That possibility is now denied to his community.

The above information, if accurate, clearly points to gross violations of religious freedom. Even the Hungarian government seems aware that the present situation contravenes European norms, and it has taken steps to create the impression that the situation is not as severe as it appears. The Ministry of Public Administration and Justice (Közigazgatási és Igazságügyi Minisztérium) posted on its web page an unsigned letter, dated February 1, 2012, which explained what deregistered churches needed to do to register as associations. The letter also indicated that civil associations conducting religious activities would have special protections, including a right to internal autonomy, special treatment of information concerning the organization’s membership, a right to collect donations, legal exemption from the need to establish their character as a non-profit association, the freedom to maintain schools and charity organizations, and permission to retain any agricultural land already in their possession. However, my understanding is that none of these special protections are provided for in the law. Indeed, the fact that the letter was posted unsigned on a webpage seems peculiar, suggesting, perhaps, that no one in the ministry wanted to take responsibility for its contents. The representative of one religious group told me he had been advised by his lawyers that he could not rely on the promises in this letter when applying for recognition as a non-profit association. Promises made in an unsigned letter posted on the webpage of a government ministry do not constitute a legal guarantee.

The new legal situation also has financial implications for the deregistered churches. Hungarian taxpayers are able to designate 1% of their income tax as a contribution to a church or civil association of their choice. In the case of money designated for churches, the state matches the 1% designated by taxpayers; in the case of money designated for associations, the state doesn’t match the 1%, which means associations receive proportionally less than churches. But as far as the deregistered churches are concerned, this question is moot, because at the moment they are neither churches nor associations. The state is retaining the money taxpayers designated to these associations on their income tax forms and will only give it to them if the communities are recognized as associations. These churches were deregistered first in June 2011 and then, after the first law was struck down by the constitutional court, deregistered again in January 2012. Now it is August. When will they receive the money explicitly designated to them by Hungarian taxpayers?

Deregistered churches have also lost various sorts of tax exemptions. The most significant of these, perhaps, concerns clergy. Churches are exempted from paying the social security taxes, etc., attached to their clergy’s salary; associations are not so exempt. Paying those taxes doubles the cost of supporting a minister. I was told by several religious groups that they had been forced to lay off ministers in order to absorb the higher salaried cost of clergy.

One might think the most significant issues concern state subsidy. Registered churches receive significant state subsidies. In 1997 Hungary and the Vatican reached an agreement on the terms of public support of Catholic institutions. Although that agreement only concerned the Catholic Church, it established the framework for relations between the Hungarian state and all registered churches. According to this framework the Hungarian state agrees to support church schools by matching the financial support it offers to public schools. The state has also agreed to subsidize other institutions run by the churches. Thus loss of church status might appear to have significant financial implications for deregistered churches. However, non-profit associations also receive significant state subsidy to operate public service institutions. Thus, deregistered churches which maintain such institutions would continue to receive state subsidies, should they be recognized as non-profit associations.

This leaves a confusing picture. The public rationale for the new religion law was to eliminate financial abuses by so-called “business churches.” However, if the process of church deregistration and re-registration as a civil association were to go as smoothly as indicated, for example, in the unsigned letter posted on the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice webpage, the financial implications of the switch would appear relatively minor. On the other hand, if the purpose of the new church law was to enable the state to, in effect, nationalize the assets of deregistered churches, the financial implications of the new law will be much greater.

Indeed, one must reckon with the possibility that a number of deregistered churches will have their property confiscated. A court has already ordered the liquidation of one religious community under a set of circumstances that are deeply troubling. The community in question is Isten Gyülekezete Egyesült Pünkösdi Egyház (Assembly of God United Pentecostal Church). This church has been operating in Hungary since 1926. It has a membership of between one to two thousand, the majority of whom are Roma. The church is also affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church International, based in the United States. The circumstances surrounding the court ordered liquidation of Isten Gyülekezete Egyesült Pünkösdi Egyház are as follows:

The unsigned letter of February 1 posted on the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice webpage informed deregistered churches that they would have until February 29 to submit their applications for association to the court, and in the event a deregistered church missed the deadline, it would be liquidated without legal successor. In the meantime, however, perhaps because of international pressure, the deregistered churches were given an opportunity to apply for church status. Parliament voted on these applications on February 27, 2012, registering another 13 churches alongside the initial 14. Given that this vote took place two days before the February 29 deadline, the government extended the deadline for deregistered churches to apply for recognition as associations until April 30. Isten Gyülekezete was officially informed of this new deadline in a letter from the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice dated April 13. The community submitted its application via registered mail on April 22. The package was received by the court on April 23. On May 25 the court ordered the liquidation of Isten Gyülekezete Egyesült Pünkösdi Egyház on the grounds that it had submitted its application after the February 29 deadline – a deadline which had been extended in light of the February 27 vote in Parliament.

The most positive construal on this sequence of events is that the judge who rendered the decision was simply unaware of the events in Parliament and the extension of the deadline. At the same time, it is difficult to fathom a court functioning at such a high level of incompetence. Other peculiar circumstances also surround the case. Isten Gyülekezete is headquartered in the city of Pécs. Accordingly, the application for civil association was submitted to the county court (megyei bíróság) in Pécs. The judgment to liquidate Isten Gyülekezete, however, was issued by a court in the city of Veszprém. Moreover, the church has been told that it must appeal the decision of the Veszprém court in the city of Győr. Why is the case being passed around different circuits in this way? Does this have something to do with Hungary’s new judicial laws? Should we assume the National Judicial Office is actively involved in the handling of this case? Can a deregistered church treated in this fashion have any confidence in the rule of law?

Without a doubt, religious life for deregistered churches in Hungary has become extraordinary difficult and highly attenuated. They are uncertain about their present legal status and they are afraid of liquidation. They live without legal guarantees. The government itself has been moving very slowly to address the situation. There are good reasons to be deeply concerned about the state of religious freedom in Hungary.

65 comments

  1. David Baer – positive contribution.
    Barfy — shameful declaration.
    The nation should rise up, and clean out the country.
    The reactionary politicians around Orban are plain criminals.
    Only sleeping citizen can tolerate them.

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  2. David Baer has done magnificent work to discover what is really happening “on the ground” in Hungary after the new churches law passed in December. Many of the consequences that critics feared have in fact happened — and in fact, the situation seems to be worse than anyone guessed it would be. What he reports is very serious indeed.

    The law clearly permits the registration of associations, and the courts should just register the non-listed churches without difficulty, as the government promised would happen when the law was passed. In fact, the US Government’s report on Religious Freedom in Hungary 2011 said that the registration of non-listed churches as associations would be automatic. http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,HUN,,502105b538,0.html . But obviously, this is not the case.

    The Venice Commission was clearly worried about the lack of guarantees for the churches that were not on the official list i, and their spring report slammed the new churches law hard for failing to meet European standards, which are sharply critical of official registration laws in general. See http://www.venice.coe.int/docs/2012/CDL-AD%282012%29004-e.pdf . Clearly, the support for freedom of religion that the government promised (in English, no less) back in March has not come to pass. See the government’s rosy PR on the point at http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-public-administration-and-justice/news/thirty-two-churches-recognised-by-parliament-to-date

    The Venice Commission’s critique focused on the structure of the law. Now we have David Baer’s detailed inquiry into what has happened after the law went into effect. The Venice Commission’s worst fears turn out to have been too optimistic.

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  3. I am forming in Hungary (also) “The Nuclear Church of Christ.” It worships Christ through Cherenkov radiation and builds small nuclear reactors from which church members can obtain, through donations, free electricity. Naturally, with the State matching contribution it can be accomplished faster. Because the State can not regulate the internal activity of the church,it can not demand meeting other State regulations regarding nuclear power.Ex-members of deregistered churches welcome after a dip in the spent fuel pool.

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  4. Am I to understand that a country where the majority of people claim they are non-religious, churches are subsidized by the government? Am I the only one that finds this outrageous, even for Hungary?

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  5. Point 1, as with Ms KKA, it is a nonsense to begin with that the State anywhere in 2012 funds religious institutions.

    Point 2 the various institutions hit by the regime are not being denied the right to practise their beliefs surely? Orban is not sending cops round to peoples’ houses to check what version of a diety they believe in. Not yet anyway. Practise of belief doesn’t require tax exemption or donations from the State.

    Point 3. Connected with Point 2. Whilst not being denied the basic right to practise their beliefs the institutions in question are instead under threat of being robbed by the State (or to put it in post 1948 parlance, “having their assets nationalised for the benefit of the Hungarian People”. That is, as with the “nationalisation” of our private pensions, a question of pure theft and is the most disturbing thing for me with this whole story.

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  6. Ms KKA :
    Am I to understand that a country where the majority of people claim they are non-religious, churches are subsidized by the government? Am I the only one that finds this outrageous, even for Hungary?

    You certainly wouldn’t get the Catholic Church to agree….

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  7. GOVERNMENT AS LEGO…Orban and Budai as the main structuralists.

    “Hark! Is that a voice I hear?”
    –Here, Chatary…here pussy…here little Chatary…wherefore art thou?

    (The curtain descends.)

    One can be sure that the csendors (police) of Hungary are doing there best…but it is August and everyone takes a holiday then. Csatary, in the meantime, has been sent to a castle-resort to recuperate from the vile hounding of infant, country-betraying isrealites….

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  8. Thank you for this very informative article. I take issue with only sentence:

    ” At the same time, it is difficult to fathom a court functioning at such a high level of incompetence.”

    Unfortunately I just don’t know if that is true. It is odd that it was moved from Pécs – these laws were basically designed to move cases from Budapest to the country side because the Budapest courts were overloaded (and also for the government to retain control). But as far as I know, the Pécs bench are friends of the Party, and can be trusted to “do the right thing”.

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  9. The churches in Europe are supported by the tax paying members. Every taxpayer is registered by religious affiliation.

    The church tax is one component of the payroll tax. Income, social security, healthcare are other components.

    I think, the churches do not get subsidies beyond the amount collected in taxes.

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  10. Ms KKA, in Germany, the state collects a “Church tax” – for a number of religious groups but mainly the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church and Jewish communities. The tax is calculated based on the income tax a person pays. People do not pay such tax if they do not officially belong to a church. In Italy and Spain the state collects a tax that is designed for Church purposes independently of belonging to a religious group or not.

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  11. Louis Kovach :
    I am forming in Hungary (also) “The Nuclear Church of Christ.” It worships Christ through Cherenkov radiation and builds small nuclear reactors from which church members can obtain, through donations, free electricity. Naturally, with the State matching contribution it can be accomplished faster. Because the State can not regulate the internal activity of the church,it can not demand meeting other State regulations regarding nuclear power.Ex-members of deregistered churches welcome after a dip in the spent fuel pool.

    Good for you Luis. And your point is?

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  12. I have no problem with the Government coming down on Churches (in any country), but that should be across and inclusive. I think the law should be “grandfathered” in certain privileges, but some should be scraped all together. In Hungary you do not have to pay property tax anyway, so I am not sure exactly what are some other church privileges, Churches should not receive money from the government but should be able to apply for grants as any not-for-profit organization. Many of the churches indeed do amazing charity work that includes outreach programs to members of society that the government neglects. I do agree with the idea, if it can be shown that the money they make goes back to charity (not including wages) should not be taxed.
    Orban (and his faithful followers) choose to pick and choose between the all to provide privileges to those who are closest to them or to their worldview. How Christian of them.

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  13. Thank you professor, an interesting and very informative article. Our only hope at the moment is for people like yourself to keep telling the world what is really going on in Hungary.

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  14. Paul :
    Thank you professor, an interesting and very informative article. Our only hope at the moment is for people like yourself to keep telling the world what is really going on in Hungary.

    It would be nice if Ms Balogh visited Hungary (let say for minimum three months) and just tried to live normally there. Then she would know what is going on in Hungary. By the way Paul. What can you not do in Hungary which you were able to do under the previous Government?

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  15. @Kormos:

    So where do you live ? I’ve just been watching the evening news on M1 and it’s so unbelievably “de-politisized” (my word for un-political, trivial, crappy, devoid of any real info) – looks almost like North Korea …

    And the economics don’t look so good either – inflation over 5 %.

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  16. Kormos wrote:

    “What can you not do in Hungary which you were able to do under the previous Government?”

    I cannot speak for Paul, but for myself, I can say that it is no longer possible to drive in a foreign tagged auto in parts of Budapest’s District II in early hours and not expect to be stopped by policemen without name tags expecting their 5000 Ft cash “fine” for “driving while holding a foreign passport.” This practice — police without name badges — had been stopped by the MSzP/SzDSz coalition and is now back in force, only it used to be only 2000 Ft.

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  17. @GW
    Are you telling us that you could be fined for properly driving a foreign licensed vehicle with a foreign passport and with a valid (international) driving license? Did you launch an official complain about police not wearing name badges?

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  18. Kormos, I think writing an opinion piece does not mean you have to be involved a directly in an event. It means you have to get your information from the right sources, and from reliable witnesses. EVa is not part of any religious group in Hungary, so of course it does not effect her directly, and she does not have to put her retirement money away in Hungary just to be confiscated by Orban either.

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  19. Kormos :By the way Paul. What can you not do in Hungary which you were able to do under the previous Government?

    Let’s see …

    I cannot be the member of many chrurches …
    I cannot send my kid to the church’s school because of the lost financial support …
    I cannot listen to truthful taxpayer financed media …
    I cannot be proud that the national curriculum doesn’t have nazis in it …
    I cannot trust the judges (at least the ones Orban’s BFF installed) …
    I cannot hope that the constitutional court will protect my constitutional rights …
    I cannot buy the same amount of food and clothing for my children …
    I cannot pay for their higher education if I have to pay the full price …
    I cannot take home the same money after tax …
    I cannot afford my medication …
    I cannot chose the principal in my children’s school. The FIDESZ people will still remove them despite the majorities will …
    I cannot say out openly that I’m fed up with Orban government’s arrogance (I lose my job) …
    I cannot vote without registering …
    I cannot call my country a republic …

    I have only limited time, but I’m sure others will add more.

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  20. Kormos,

    It has happened to everyone in my circle of friends at least twice, and to me three times. Twice in 2000-2001 and once again while visiting in 2011. It’s useless to complain. The police stations will not take complaints from foreigners, especially complaints against the police. Believe me, I have tried, for example on September 12th of 2000 when I was stopped directly in front of the then-President’s house on Bela Kiraly ut around 9 pm by two policemen without name plates directly in view of the guard house at the President’s house and held until I could produce a 2000 Ft bill. The district police station refused to take my complaint the next day, saying that I could not prove that they were really police, even though I had the license plate number of the police car. The Budapest office then designated for dealing with tourist problems simply told me I was lucky to get away for 2000.

    (When my wife was pickpocketed in the lobby of the opera house in BP in 2001, I was able to run after the pickpocket who went to a car waiting at the sidewalk, I jumped on the car hood and the pickpocket through out the wallet when I threatened to break a windshield wiper. Afterwards, we went to the police station to report the crime and the car’s license plate, and were refused, with the reason that the police were under pressure to lower crime statistics.)

    In any case, this practice stopped in 2002 with the new government’s name plate requirement but appears to have started again in 2010.

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  21. Ms KKA, it is shocking, no doubt, in particular if you were led to believe that Europe is ONLY or even MAINLY the product of enlightenment. In my impression, the earlier one accepts that Europe despite the revolutions and wars is still home to nearly all ideas that have been around before (democracy and enlightenment next to aristocratic, nationalist and racist thoughts, a number of countries are monarchies, there are even principalities around, and most importantly Europeans still think of themselves as the embodiment of “civilisation” and “culture”, so even ideas shaped by the colonisation period), even if with changing importance, the better. And as regards the role of the Church, is should not be underrated that the Papal States were largely absorbed in Italy. And it might be of interest for you that the Holy See is (I think contrasting with the position of all other churches but in that I am not entirely sure) ” a non-territorial entity with a legal personality akin to that of states”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_status_of_the_Holy_See. Also a historical “holdover”.

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  22. It would be nice if Ms Balogh visited Hungary (let say for minimum three months) and just tried to live normally there. Then she would know what is going on in Hungary. By the way Paul. What can you not do in Hungary which you were able to do under the previous Government?

    It is a common misconception that you have to live in a country in order to know exactly what’s going on it. “Aunt Mari,” who is the Hungarian Everyman, does live there, but do you think that she knows better what’s going on exactly with the churches, the Constitutional Court, the recession, the IMF, the state of the economy than I do or for that matter any of the contributors on this list? Surely not.

    As far as my person is concerned, Kormos would be surprised to learn how many letters I get asking me to participate in this or that event in Budapest. I have to tell them that unfortunately I live in the United States and I just can’t get on the plane to attend their panel discussion. It would be a bit expensive.

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    1. I realize this, but here in the USA, separation of church and state is one of the cornerstones of the democracy that I was raised on (which has nothing to do with the “democracy” that is currently in play, unfortunately; all thanks be to the religious right!), as well as the main reason folks came here in the first place. Of course, now that I’m thinking about it more, it =was= Europe from which they fled…never mind. I think I just answered my own question.

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  23. @ Mutt
    I cannot argue with you, because if you felt this way, all your claims must be true for you.
    You must be the poorest soul in Hungary, provided that you moved there from US. Now, if I remember well, I posted the question to Paul, who spends the summer there.

    @Wolfi
    Unfortunately I do not live in Heviz, but I visit it as often as I can, and I do not miss the cheap political TV shows.

    @Ms. Balogh
    I certainly did not want to offend you. Should different groups invite you for a speech,they should pay your cost, as the former Government(s) paid Ms. Scheppele for her advice

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    1. @Kormos
      Surely you are not asserting that things in Hungary are hunky-dory for all but ” the poorest soul in Hungary, provided that you moved there from US.” And, why do you poo-poo Eva and Paul’s contributions simply because they “…[only] spends the summer there…” or no longer live in Hungary? I can’t speak for Paul, but I know for a fact that Eva and I both communicate daily with people who live in Hungary, and always have lived in Hungary, none of whom are poor, and all of whom would make the same claims as Mutt. And, I agree wholeheartedly with Eva about the amount of factual information available to the majority of the people living in Hungary vs. the good people on this list.
      Since you seem so conversant with the living arrangements of so many on this list, I would be exceedingly interested to know exactly where you reside, and for what amounts of time you reside there.

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  24. Kormos, I hope I am not the only one who is happy that the previous government paid for qualified experts for their opinion before decision making versus our new government that pays to unqualified dilettantes for making decisions.

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  25. Kormos :
    @ Mutt
    I cannot argue with you, because if you felt this way, all your claims must be true for you.
    You must be the poorest soul in Hungary, provided that you moved there from US. Now, if I remember well, I posted the question to Paul, who spends the summer there.
    @Wolfi
    Unfortunately I do not live in Heviz, but I visit it as often as I can, and I do not miss the cheap political TV shows.
    @Ms. Balogh
    I certainly did not want to offend you. Should different groups invite you for a speech,they should pay your cost, as the former Government(s) paid Ms. Scheppele for her advice

    Heviz–” I visit it as often as I can..”

    I don’t, and I have a timeshare there.
    The problem is with staff–they think that guests are there to entertain THEM. One should expect neither
    courtesy or service.
    But of course, old-country Hungarians thought it a great to-do to be able to go to these places and, best
    of all, to be able to crow about it to their neighbors, friends and relatives.
    In short, I have found that Hungarians inhabit that
    specifically psychic ‘Balkan’ world where the height
    of success and pleasure is not money or power…but
    the transmission of misery.

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  26. @Ms KKA
    Things in Hungary are not hunky-dory since about 1905. I also communicate with people in Hungary and I spend significant time every year in Hungary as well. I did not poo-poo Ms. Balogh’s contribution. Actually I respect her prerogative to write anything she likes in her blog. But..her or (for example) Galamus’ view is just one of many. True, I have a choice not to read this blog, but I do not have to agree with everything written here. I follow the conversation since a few years and my knowledge about contributors came from their postings.
    Why are you so interested about my residency and duration? I never ask anyone on this blog for personal data

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  27. Kormos :
    @Ms. Balogh
    I certainly did not want to offend you. Should different groups invite you for a speech,they should pay your cost, as the former Government(s) paid Ms. Scheppele for her advice

    As far as I know the Orban government blew millions of dollars on foreign rent-a-goebbels outfits like the Rasky Baerlein. So let’s skip this …

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  28. Kormos :
    @ Mutt
    I cannot argue with you, because if you felt this way, all your claims must be true for you.

    Right. You sound like our parliament. Why would you argue with penniless old folks if they “feel” they cannot afford their medication … You cannot convince the true believer.

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    1. Maybe he sounds like your parliament because he has a very close relationship with someone therein who whispers in his ear a lot…just sayin’.

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  29. Some1 :
    In Hungary you do not have to pay property tax anyway, so I am not sure exactly what are some other church privileges, Churches should not receive money from the government but should be able to apply for grants as any not-for-profit organization.

    I disagree. There are property taxes in Hungary., but not mentioned as such.
    First you have the transfer tax from 6 to 10% over the value of the property.
    Then there is VAT (Value Added Tax), which cannot be deducted for housing, unless it is qualified as a business and applied for.
    Then there is kommunal tax (a local tax), which apply only to the owners of the building.
    Fourth is the chimney tax.
    Fifth (only for business) X% over the rental income. This is a property tax, and not to be confused with local business tax.

    As to money from the government. Under the previous Orban government Churches were renovated with government money. G. Horn introduced the 1% people could decide on for churches and charity.

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  30. Ms KKA :
    Am I to understand that a country where the majority of people claim they are non-religious, churches are subsidized by the government? Am I the only one that finds this outrageous, even for Hungary?

    1.
    A few years ago, under the previous government, there were still data available.
    Then 70% [!] of the income of the Catholic Church of Hungary came from government subsidy.
    This percentage must be higher now.

    2.
    A lot of local communities had to hand over their only elementary schools to churches [yes, state neutralism has been left out from the new “Basic Law” replacing the Constitution since January 1, 2012]. The reason? Church schools got 90% more money per pupil from the government than public schools.

    3.
    The last report from the Hungarian IRS about how many people gave 1% of their taxes VOLUNTARILY to churches & how much & to which churches came out a year ago.[1/4 or 1,019,787 of the approximately 4 million returns] The Orban government ordered the Hungarian IRS to take down this report from its website and made any subsequent reports a STATE SECRET (seriously).

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  31. I have downloaded the now unavailable report.
    Altogether, 187 churches got voluntary taxpayer support in the 2010 tax returns.

    The first 10 by money offered are

    1. 0011 MAGYAR KATOLIKUS EGYHÁZ 601 695 people
    2. 0066 MAGYARORSZÁGI REFORMÁTUS EGYHÁZ 207 012 people
    3. 0035 MAGYARORSZÁGI EVANGÉLIKUS EGYHÁZ 54 429
    4. 0389 MAGYARORSZÁGI KRISNA-TUDATÚ HÍVŐK KÖZÖSSÉGE 14 475
    5. 0286 MAGYARORSZÁGI BAPTISTA EGYHÁZ 17 337
    6. 0279 HIT GYÜLEKEZETE 24 961
    7. 0358 MAGYARORSZÁGI ZSIDÓ HITKÖZSÉGEK SZÖVETSÉGE 5 829
    8. 2006 NOÉ AZ ÉLETÉRT KÖZÖSSÉG 9 968
    9. 0042 GYÉMÁNT ÚT BUDDHISTA KÖZÖSSÉG 5 753
    10. 0200 MAGYARORSZÁGI UNITÁRIUS EGYHÁZ 2 750

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  32. Ms KKA :
    Of course, now that I’m thinking about it more, it =was= Europe from which they fled…never mind. I think I just answered my own question.

    I found it revealing to read the arguments of people who fled Europe to America, before and after independence. For me this is a very good clue to understanding Europe. Before that, I was perhaps a bit puzzled about how this can probably fit together (the idea that Europe is the “craddle of democracy and civilisation” and the abundance of admiration for the nobility, monarchs, the importance of nationalism and all other -isms, the state, the Catholic Church etc.) but that was it. Certainly it must fit (somehow). It does not, as I now believe, but it is all present and influencing what is being done. So Hungary really IS European in that regard. And one country that is secularised, France, has been frequently related to “but how brutal – not respecting basic human rights themselves!”

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  33. Kormos :

    @Ms. Balogh
    I certainly did not want to offend you. Should different groups invite you for a speech,they should pay your cost, as the former Government(s) paid Ms. Scheppele for her advice

    I can’t speak for Ms. Scheppele but one thing is sure I never received a penny from any Hungarian government.

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  34. tappanch :

    I have downloaded the now unavailable report.
    Altogether, 187 churches got voluntary taxpayer support in the 2010 tax returns.

    The first 10 by money offered are

    1. 0011 MAGYAR KATOLIKUS EGYHÁZ 601 695 people
    2. 0066 MAGYARORSZÁGI REFORMÁTUS EGYHÁZ 207 012 people
    3. 0035 MAGYARORSZÁGI EVANGÉLIKUS EGYHÁZ 54 429
    4. 0389 MAGYARORSZÁGI KRISNA-TUDATÚ HÍVŐK KÖZÖSSÉGE 14 475
    5. 0286 MAGYARORSZÁGI BAPTISTA EGYHÁZ 17 337
    6. 0279 HIT GYÜLEKEZETE 24 961
    7. 0358 MAGYARORSZÁGI ZSIDÓ HITKÖZSÉGEK SZÖVETSÉGE 5 829
    8. 2006 NOÉ AZ ÉLETÉRT KÖZÖSSÉG 9 968
    9. 0042 GYÉMÁNT ÚT BUDDHISTA KÖZÖSSÉG 5 753
    10. 0200 MAGYARORSZÁGI UNITÁRIUS EGYHÁZ 2 750

    Unless I was careful with the calculator I came up with the number 944.209. that is even worse

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  35. Ron :

    Some1 :
    In Hungary you do not have to pay property tax anyway, so I am not sure exactly what are some other church privileges, Churches should not receive money from the government but should be able to apply for grants as any not-for-profit organization.

    I disagree. There are property taxes in Hungary., but not mentioned as such.
    First you have the transfer tax from 6 to 10% over the value of the property.
    Then there is VAT (Value Added Tax), which cannot be deducted for housing, unless it is qualified as a business and applied for.
    Then there is kommunal tax (a local tax), which apply only to the owners of the building.
    Fourth is the chimney tax.
    Fifth (only for business) X% over the rental income. This is a property tax, and not to be confused with local business tax.
    As to money from the government. Under the previous Orban government Churches were renovated with government money. G. Horn introduced the 1% people could decide on for churches and charity.

    Ron, I am sorry but property tax is not the same as transfer taxes. In Canada (in the States and in many other countries but I am 100% familiar with the Canadian system), you pay land transfer tax. There is a an approximate 1% (depending prize, and if you are a first time buyer or not) + in Toronto and additional around 1% + you pay HST 13% (harmonized sales tax) if it is a new or renewed building. THat is the tax that is NOT property tax.
    You also pay the yearly property tax, and that is what a clearly stated (“you do not have to pay property tax anyway”). THe property tax in Canada is different from city to city and reflects contribution for the upkeep of local infrastructure, school contribution, etc. It is set by the city and called, mil rate (“The amount per $1,000 that is used to calculate taxes on property. Millage rates are most often found in personal property taxes, where the expressed millage rate is multiplied by the total taxable value of the property to arrive at the property taxes due. Millage rates are also used by school boards to calculate local school taxes to be collected, based on a derivation of the total property value within school district boundaries. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/millagerate.asp#ixzz23c411Ceb).
    Maintenance fees include certain taxes, but I am not going to go there.
    THe current mil rate for a residential property (not industrial, commercial ,pipelines, etc.), is city tax 0.5501981%, education tax 0.2210000%, Total 0.7711981% OR on a property valued at $500,000 property approximately $3,850 / year. This something that is not charged in Hungary.

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  36. Eva S. Balogh :

    tappanch :
    I have downloaded the now unavailable report.
    Altogether, 187 churches got voluntary taxpayer support in the 2010 tax returns.
    The first 10 by money offered are

    Unless I was careful with the calculator I came up with the number 944.209. that is even worse

    In my calculation, 24 out of the biggest 50 churches were denied recognition by the Hungarian parliament and 135 of the 137 of smaller ones.

    Here is the list of the biggest churches, ranked by the voluntary taxpayer donations in 2010

    [** =accepted right away, *= acceped at the final vote by Parliament]

    ** 1. 0011 MAGYAR KATOLIKUS EGYHÁZ 601 695 people
    ** 2. 0066 MAGYARORSZÁGI REFORMÁTUS EGYHÁZ 207 012 people
    ** 3. 0035 MAGYARORSZÁGI EVANGÉLIKUS EGYHÁZ 54 429
    * 4. 0389 MAGYARORSZÁGI KRISNA-TUDATÚ HÍVŐK KÖZÖSSÉGE 14 475
    ** 5. 0286 MAGYARORSZÁGI BAPTISTA EGYHÁZ 17 337
    ** 6. 0279 HIT GYÜLEKEZETE 24 961
    ** 7. 0358 MAGYARORSZÁGI ZSIDÓ HITKÖZSÉGEK SZÖVETSÉGE 5 829
    8. 2006 NOÉ AZ ÉLETÉRT KÖZÖSSÉG 9 968
    * 9. 0042 GYÉMÁNT ÚT BUDDHISTA KÖZÖSSÉG 5 753
    ** 10. 0200 MAGYARORSZÁGI UNITÁRIUS EGYHÁZ 2 750

    * 11. 0255 TAN KAPUJA BUDDHISTA EGYHÁZ 3 438 people
    * 12. 0406 MAGYARORSZÁGI JEHOVA TANÚI EGYHÁZ 8 249
    13. 1122 KÖZÖSSÉG A SZÜLETÉS MÉLTÓSÁGÁÉRT4 796
    * 14. 0334 ERDÉLYI GYÜLEKEZET 2 657
    * 15. 0341 BUDDHISTA MISSZIÓ MAGYARORSZÁGI ÁRYA MAITREYA
    MANDALA EGYHÁZKÖZÖSSÉG 2 227
    ** 16. 1287 EMIH EGYSÉGES MAGYARORSZÁGI IZREALITA HITKÖZSÉG
    (STATUSQUO ANTE) 1 067
    * 17. 0059 MAGYARORSZÁGI KARMA-KAGYÜPA KÖZÖSSÉG 1 574
    18. 0578 GOLGOTA KERESZTÉNY GYÜLEKEZET 2 030
    * 19. 0248 HETEDNAPI ADVENTISTA EGYHÁZ 2 075
    20. 0138 EVANGÉLIUMI PÜNKÖSDI KÖZÖSSÉG 2 412

    21. 0080 KERESZTÉNY ADVENT KÖZÖSSÉG 1 656
    22. 0444 MAGYARORSZÁGI EVANGÉLIUMI TESTVÉRKÖZÖSSÉG 1 060
    23. 0877 MAGYAR TAOISTA EGYHÁZ 908
    24. 1483 ÁRKÁDIA FÉNYEINEK SPIRITUÁLIS EGYHÁZA 1 484
    ** 25. 0365 OROSZ ORTODOX EGYHÁZ MAGYAR EGYHÁZMEGYÉJE
    /MOSZKVAI PATRIARCHÁTUS/ 888
    26. 0626 KRISZTUS SZERETETE EGYHÁZ 1 983
    27. 0970 KOREAIAK MAGYARORSZÁGI ÉS KÖZÉP-EURÓPAI
    KERESZTÉNY GYÜLEKEZETE 107
    ** 28. 0420 BUDAI SZERB ORTODOX EGYHÁZMEGYE 697
    29. 1706 MANTRA MAGYARORSZÁGI BUDDHISTA EGYHÁZ 919
    30. 0925 ŐSMAGYAR EGYHÁZ 991

    31. 0114 MAGYARORSZÁGI SZCIENTOLÓGIA EGYHÁZ 1 164
    32. 1469 MAGYARORSZÁGI DZOGCSEN KÖZÖSSÉG 142
    * 33. 0073 MAGYARORSZÁGI METODISTA EGYHÁZ 808
    ** 34. 0372 MAGYARORSZÁGI BOLGÁR ORTODOX EGYHÁZ 393
    35. 1720 DZSAJ BHÍM KÖZÖSSÉG 348
    * 36. 0671 KRISZTUSBAN HÍVŐ NAZARÉNUS GYÜLEKEZET 997
    * 37. 0176 ÜDVHADSEREG SZABADEGYHÁZ – MAGYARORSZÁG 692
    38. 1191 FÉNY GYERMEKEI MAGYAR ESSZÉNUS EGYHÁZ 809
    ** 39. 0293 MAGYARORSZÁGI ROMÁN ORTODOX EGYHÁZ 530
    * 40. 1201 MAGYARORSZÁGI KÍNAI CHANBUDDHISTA EGYHÁZ 1 335

    41. 1799 USUI SZELLEMI ISKOLA KÖZÖSSÉG 780
    ** 42. 0107 MAGYARORSZÁGI AUTONÓM ORTHODOX IZRAELITA
    HITKÖZSÉG 282
    43. 0121 TELJES EVANGÉLIUMI KERESZTYÉN KÖZÖSSÉG
    MAHANAIM GYÜLEKEZET 657
    44. 0437 MAGYARORSZÁGI LECTORIUM ROSICRUCIANUM
    VALLÁSKÖZÖSSÉG 463
    45. 0097 MAGYARORSZÁGI BIBLIA SZÓL EGYHÁZ 1 016
    46. 1373 SZIM SALOM PROGRESSZÍV ZSIDÓ HITKÖZSÉG 288
    47. 0303 OM VISHWA GURU DEEP HINDU MANDIR VALLÁSI
    KÖZÖSSÉG ÉS SZELLEMI ISKOLA 473
    * 48. 0554 MAGYAR ISZLÁM KÖZÖSSÉG 362
    49. 1146 KELTA-WICCA HAGYOMÁNYŐRZŐK EGYHÁZA 501
    50. 1067 MYRAI SZENT MIKLÓS KERESZTÉNY EGYHÁZ 1 264

    The remaining 137 churches had less than 550 supporters each in 2010.

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  37. Notable rejected churches are:

    Reverend Ivanyi’s Magyarországi Evangélikus Testvérközösség (#22),
    Reform Judaism (2 communities),
    Baha’ism, Taoism, Scientology, and several small
    protestant churches.

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  38. Another famous rejected church
    DZSAJ BHÍM (#35) – Buddhist, charitable work among the Gypsy population

    There was a big scandal [without consequences, after all – this is Hungary],
    when a local Fidesz official ordered the reexamination of local census data, because
    a lot of Gypsy declared Buddhism, and not Catholicism as their religion in the 2011 census.

    The census questionnaires are supposed to be secret, but the Fidesz official obviously saw them – against the law.

    By the way, almost a year after the census, there are still no public data available!! Why?
    Even during the war, the Statistical Office published data about the 1941 census quicker.

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  39. @tappanch:

    There also is nothing about the questionnaire with those “important questions” from Mr Orbán himself that was sent to all Hungarian voters in June of this year.

    My wife threw it in the trash immediately – does anyone have any idea how many people answered /sent back that paper ?

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  40. Some1 “Good for you Luis. And your point is?”

    The point is that this whole church business is a question of who has access to the taxpayer trough. Perhaps the best would be not to subsidize any churches. When a state, any state subsidizes something it will always and up a state determinded activity. Once hooked on the dole, hooked forever….and money has always strings attached to it.

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  41. Some1: ” There is a an approximate 1% (depending prize, and if you are a first time buyer or not) + in Toronto and additional around 1% + you pay HST 13% (harmonized sales tax) if it is a new or renewed building. THat is the tax that is NOT property tax.”

    In the US there is a sort of sales tax, based on the value of the property (in places that is the price, in other places it could the “prize” if you won it in a lottery)

    The property tax is used to finance primarily the schools (both building and operating), the fire dept., which also acts as an ambulance service, local police protection, local roads, mental health and children’s services and in some places sundry other small issues. The bulk of the property tax goes to schools.

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  42. Louis Kovach :
    The property tax is used to finance primarily the schools (both building and operating), the fire dept., which also acts as an ambulance service, local police protection, local roads, mental health and children’s services and in some places sundry other small issues. The bulk of the property tax goes to schools.

    I don’t know what Kovach thinks the work “bulk” means but the schools use up about half of the real estate tax in the US (this is an average, in some places it could be more, in others less).

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  43. OK, I calculated percentage of the people that gave 1% of their taxes to one of the 187 churches in 2010. The rest did not wish to give any of her/his tax money to ANY church.

    28.93% or 1019787 / 3525536 [the denominator is the # of people that paid any personal income tax [SzJA] in 2010, while 4 567 985 people sent in a tax return]

    These people paid 28.06% of the personal income taxes.

    So one can approximate that 71% of the non-retired adults in Hungary are not REALLY religious.

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  44. tappanch :
    OK, I calculated percentage of the people that gave 1% of their taxes to one of the 187 churches in 2010. The rest did not wish to give any of her/his tax money to ANY church.
    28.93% or 1019787 / 3525536 [the denominator is the # of people that paid any personal income tax [SzJA] in 2010, while 4 567 985 people sent in a tax return]
    These people paid 28.06% of the personal income taxes.
    So one can approximate that 71% of the non-retired adults in Hungary are not REALLY religious.

    This were true if you define a person to be REALLY religious if s/he gives money to the his/her church. I think to do this in a country like Hungary or Germany, where the government is financing the churches is not realistic. I am sure many people don’t give money because they assume the government supports them anyway. Eliminate the government enforced tithe and then the real numbers will emerge.

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  45. Yes, it depends on the definition.
    But: whether you designate 1% of your tax to a church or not, your net income does not change. If you do not designate it to a church, it goes to the government. So if you feel affiliated even a tiny bit to a church there is no financial disincentive to give it your 1%.

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  46. tappanch :
    Yes, it depends on the definition.
    But: whether you designate 1% of your tax to a church or not, your net income does not change. If you do not designate it to a church, it goes to the government. So if you feel affiliated even a tiny bit to a church there is no financial disincentive to give it your 1%.

    This is true. However, when a person has many choices for the 1%, the decision may be influenced by many factors. Since the church is already supported by the government, the person may think that the 1% is better placed with some other cause, unsupported by the government.

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  47. gdfxx :
    This is true. However, when a person has many choices for the 1%, the decision may be influenced by many factors. Since the church is already supported by the government, the person may think that the 1% is better placed with some other cause, unsupported by the government.

    But in 2010, there was only one permitted non-religious designation.
    I will write the exact numbers tomorrow, but the full picture looks like this:

    To Churches: 29% of the taxpayers who pay personal income tax
    To the only other goal 3% [I will look up the exact numbers tomorrow]
    I don’t care, none of the above 68% [goes to the gov’t]

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  48. @ David Baer HUNGARIANS INVENTED THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!

    In 1558 the Transylvanian Diet of Torda declared free practice of both the Catholic and Lutheran religions, but prohibited Calvinism. Ten years later, in 1568, the Diet extended the freedom to all religions, declaring that “It is not allowed to anybody to intimidate anybody with captivity or expelling for his religion”. However it was more than a religious tolerance, it declared the equality of the religions. The emergence in social hierarchy wasn’t depend on the religion of the person thus Transylvania had also Catholic and Protestant monarchs (Princes). The lack of state religion was unique for centuries in Europe. Therefore the Edict of Torda is considered by mostly Hungarian historians as the first legal guarantee of religious freedom in the Christian Europe.
    ACT OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE: His majesty, our Lord, in what manner he – together with his realm – legislated in the matter of religion at the previous Diets, in the same matter now, in this Diet, reaffirms that in every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well. If not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied, but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve. Therefore none of the superintendents or others shall abuse the preachers, no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, according to the previous statutes, and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment or by removal from his post for his teaching. For faith is the gift of God and this comes from hearing, which hearings is by the word of God.

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