Hungarian Supreme Court decided: Segregation is lawful in parochial schools

Last Friday Hungary’s highest court, the Kúria, rendered a judgment that legal scholars in Hungary consider historic. To put it in the simplest terms, the panel of judges declared that segregation of the Roma in parochial schools is legal.

This is not the first time that I’ve written about an elementary school in Nyíregyháza maintained by the Greek Catholic ChurchA foundation called Chance for Children Foundation (CFCF) sued the Greek Catholic Church because, in 2011, they reopened a segregated school that served Roma children from the nearby Gypsy settlement Huszár telep.

The history of this case goes all the way back to 2007 when Nyíregyháza had a socialist mayor and town council. At this time, in order to avoid a court case, the town decided to close the school for Roma children. Instead, they provided a school bus to take children from Huszár telep to a school 2.3 km. away that had been newly refurbished on EU money. But in 2010 Nyíregyháza elected a new Fidesz administration, and it was clear from the very beginning that this educational arrangement was doomed. First, the city refused to provide a school bus for the children of Huszár telep. Then it was decided that the Greek Catholic Church would reopen the Roma school. (In 2012 the Greek Catholic Church was also given control of the modern “white” school.)

CFCF sued in 2011, but it took three years for the lower court in Nyíregyháza to hand down its decision in March 2014. It was at that time that I published a post titled “The Hungarian government supports school segregation for Roma.” On what grounds did I come to this conclusion? The reason was simple enough. Zoltán Balog over the years had made no secret of his belief that segregated schools in the hands of churches are “the citadels of convergence” for Roma students. He imagined integration as a two-step process. First you put the disadvantaged, mostly Roma, children into segregated schools where “they will catch up.” Once they achieve the requisite level of knowledge and skills in these segregated schools, the Roma children can be integrated into the mainstream population.

Balog was so convinced that his theory was sound and had such trust in the Greek Catholics’ special abilities that he himself testified during the trial which, by the way, CFCF won. Naturally, the Greek Catholic Church appealed, but CFCF won again in a judgment by the Debrecen Appellate Court. After another appeal, the case ended up in the Kúria where to everybody’s surprise the judgment was overturned. The Greek Catholic Church won. Segregation was legalized. There is no further recourse.

The reason the Kúria gave for its judgment is that the free choice of religion and school supersedes the prohibition of segregation. This judgment presupposed that all Roma parents chose the nearby elementary school for their children because they wanted to provide them with an education administered by the Greek Catholic Church. In the whole of Hungary there are only 268,935 individuals who, when asked about their religious affiliation, considered themselves Greek Catholic. This is a very small number, especially when you compare it to the 5.5 million Catholics and the 1.6 million Hungarian Reformed. The church leaders themselves admitted that practically no children were Greek Catholic.

The Greek Catholics’ interest in teaching and assisting the Roma stems from the pastoral work among the Roma of a priest called Miklós Sója (1912-1996). He spent years working with the Roma in Hodász, a village about 50 km from Nyíregyháza. Actually, the segregated Gypsy school is named after him. The church wanted to continue the Greek Catholic tradition of pastoral work among the Gypsies. They found the school close to the miserable settlement of Huszár telep in Nyíregyháza a perfect place to pursue their educational and charitable work.

From what I have been reading on the subject, the Greek Catholic Church never wanted to have an integrated school because their focus is on Gypsy pastoral work. During the first trial, the judge asked the representative of the church whether perhaps it would be possible to allow the 12 Roma first-graders to attend the “white school” that the church also ran. The priest, after some hesitation, said that perhaps they could create a separate class for the Roma children. The judge had to remind him “what this suit is all about.”

Students in the Greek Catholic segregated school in Nyíregyháza

Students in the Greek Catholic segregated school in Nyíregyháza

Magyar Nemzet a few days ago, before the Kúria’s decision, published a report on conditions in the Roma school and the parents’ and students’ satisfaction with the present arrangement. The picture couldn’t be rosier. Happy children, happy parents who consider CFCF mere troublemakers. They are very satisfied with the education their children receive. One boy’s parents decided to transfer him from an integrated school to the segregated one because he was unhappy in school. In the Miklós Sója school he made many friends, and his grades have improved dramatically. (For that latter development I could offer a simple explanation: lower expectations at the Miklós Sója school.)

CFCF and those who believe in integrated schools see the situation differently. They point out that the parents chose this particular school not because it was run by the Greek Catholics but because it was close. Even the Magyar Nemzet report admits that since there is no longer a school bus to take the children to school, they would have to use the city bus, which they could hardly afford. Gábor Daróczi, a board member of CFCF, called the judgment “apartheid under the aegis of religious freedom.” He argued that the Kúria’s judgment “practically put a how-to handbook into the hands of those churches that would like to run segregated schools.” According to CFCF, it is likely that political pressure was applied because Zoltán Balog, minister of human resources, has been a strong supporter of the church all along. CFCF is planning to appeal to the European Commission which, they hope, will begin an infringement procedure against Hungary just as they did earlier when similar infringements of European law were found in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia.

But CFCF’s strongest argument is that “there is no road to university from segregated schools.” There is a foundation called Romaveritas, apparently financed in part by the Norwegian Fund, that provides monthly stipends to about 15 Roma students a year for university studies.  Apparently, all students currently enrolled in the program came from integrated schools. They demonstrated in front of the Kúria building, emphasizing the need for integration, but to no avail. Roma leaders and civil rights activists are shocked.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

Ahhh….the heroic O has found the crack with which to pry Hungary away from the EU–Religion.
And the hapless Catholics/Protestants will bite it and swallow it all down.

Hungary! Prepare to leave the EU…
The ‘BEKEMENET’ MORONS have been activated and will soon be on the march!

The great Vajda has presented you with the Apple: bite and be satisfied!


Elektrone Motyo

We have relatives who are members of the Greek Catholic Church. Having personal experience of this church’s activities, I think that their evangelization work among the roma is a good way to help them to integrate and live a humane life.

But the main question is, which is not answered in the article: Does the school reject applications from people who do not consider themselves roma?


OT. Hungarian media stories, part 742. – one of the most popular new sites whose editors were sacked at the behest of Janos Lazar (and whose former CEO who sacked the editors is surprise surprise now working for the state media conglomerate MTVA) – owned by Magyar Telekom (in turn owned by Deutsche Telekom) but now lead by a reliably fidesznik management just published a glowing article about Paks 2.

How Paks 2 will be extremely reliable and modern — based on a field trip to Belorussia where a similar version is being built and a trade fair was organized where Rosatom was in attendance.


Under Socialism these reports were called production reports (termelési riport). The journalists were invited to visit Bakony Coal Mines and they duly reported back about the heroic, 358% fulfillment of the production quotas by fearless miners. Or about the installation of a brand new production line at the Borsod county chemical factory producing state-of-the-art PVC. Our nation leaps from triumph to triumph, the Peace Camp shall triumph over the Imperialists.

It’s 2015, but a news site owned by a major Western multinational company is producing similarly partizan pro-Fidesz articles. At least Vodafone doesn’t advertize on TV2 until the station makes public the report on the investigation into an alleged rape committed during a reality show.


The decision was delivered by a panel made up of Kúria judges specializing in administrative law. This panel/section at the Kúria is the most partizan, pro-state, pro-government, pro-Fidesz of all the sections (which also include civil/business law and criminal law). Interestingly, both the chief judge and Tünde Handó, the co-head of the judiciary responsible for HR issues and best friend to Orbán’s wife are from this legal area (although Hando is a labour law specialist, labour law and administrative law judges are organized into one professional unit). Moreover a former pro-Fidesz chief judge Zoltán Lomnici (whose son is chief counsel to CÖF, the fervently pro-Fidesz pseudo civil society movement) was also an administrative law judge. I have seen cases from the Kúria rendered by these judges and some were terribly unprofessional and even patently illegal, they went out of their way to assist the government.


Webber that is too simple, churches in the USA are tax exempt, hence all profit producing aspects of churches that are transferred to the religous aspects of those churches are given an indirect subsidy by all levels of government here. Here in Chicago all churches even get free water, free garbage pick up, and zero property taxes. It is true that it would be unconstitional to directly transfer funds to churches like it is done in Hungary and most other European nations there is significant indirect support to churches which are seen as a positive good for the most part here in the USA.


I am quite aware of all that, and that it does not violate the separation of church and state (indeed, from one viewpoint, it is a cornerstone of the separation)
Did you know that churches in Hungary, also, are tax exempt?
Moreover, in Hungary the faithful can indicate they want to donate 1% of their taxes to churches. That is not an extra 1%, that is 1% less for the state.
On top of that, the state provides churches it recognizes with direct state subsidies.
Cut state subsidies to churches, I say.


I believe the state subsidies are, very indirectly, a reason for the relatively low rate of church participation in most European states, including Hungary. Church attendance is far higher in the U.S. than in Hungary or most European States, and far more Americans say they are believers than Europeans (incl. Hungarians).
The answer “I’m Christian, but don’t believe in God” that some Europeans will give on surveys makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in the American context.
Why did this misconception of Christianity arise?
I strongly suspect that the European churches, which get state support, tend to get soft and lazy and out of touch. European pastors don’t need to rely on the faithful for funding, and so don’t need to be in contact with them as much. A church half empty is, in Europe, a church quite full enough.
By contrast, in the States where pastors must get the faithful to support them, they must also reach out to the community. They need to fill the pews.

Yes, I knew that and they are tax exempt in Hungary and in most European nations. The Constitution of the United States in the 1st Amendment does not state that there shall forever be a separation of church and state, It prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, and impeding the free exercise of religion. In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the US Supreme Court drew on Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence to call for “a wall of separation between church and State”, though the precise boundary of this separation remains in dispute. So the words separation of church and state do not exist in the Constitution. The Supreme Court’s first opportunity to rule on the validity of direct governmental financial assistance to a religiously affiliated institution occurred in 1899, the assistance being a federal grant for the construction of a wing of a hospital owned and operated by a Roman Catholic order which was to be devoted to the care of the poor. The Court viewed the hospital primarily as a secular institution so chartered by Congress and not as a religious or sectarian body, and thus avoided the constitutional issue. That has been the practice… Read more »

Jobbik is growing, Fidesz is slowly decreasing-stagnating, MSZP, likewise, and the left-wing parties increase a bit.

There is a new hope, a real contender on the market onto which people can project their hopes. It’s Hungarian, it’s young and it doesn’t deal with liberal, urban, intellectual issues.

The left-wing is still dead in the water. They could not profit a single percentage since 2010. Incredible. DK and LMP won’t ever overtake MSZP.


Is MSZP now considered a centrist party? Éva, could you line up the main political players from left to right, as you see it? I’m still unfamiliar with the lineup without a program.

Further into the spectrum that is politics, it seems that the entire political mass has shifted to the right in the past four decades. Speaking generally, not with respect to Hungary, what is now considered centrist was then considered somewhat left-of-center. All parties seem to be talking more to the right. Ostensible-labor parties [eg: NDP in Canada] sound like the Liberal Party of Canada.

Given what I see as a worldwide political repositioning, Fidesz may cede the totality of the right to Jobbik and move leftward to the genuine center, politically speaking.



Fidesz could move to the center, certainly, but isn’t. Instead it is moving farther to the right. Today Jobbik’s leader, Vona, said Orbán is taking on Jobbik’s party platform. Why did Vona say that?
Explanation here, in The Guardian:

Orban won’t move to the centre. Why? Because he himself is an right-wing extremist jerk. Plus, I suppose active Hungarian voters are not centrists in the traditional Western sense. His most useful characteristic is that he just doesn’t care if well-fed Western bureaucrats think he is an extremist or a corrupt dictator. He continues to receive the EU funds anyway and gives a shit about what others think about him. Only forever wavering lefties care about the views of others, since they lack the necessary inner conviction. Lets recap that people, including smart foreign diplomats, always said Orban ‘really’ thinks otherwise but deep down he is a spotless democrat, he’s our guy. Well, pretending is nothing else than trying out a new identity, a step in the process towards adopting a new identity. I personally never believed that he was a good guy and that he was just pretending. Anyway, the centrist voters are not active and never have been, while Jobbik’s supporters are enthusiastic. Orban likes enthusiastic voters who will go out and vote for him and who will argue for him. The best marketing is the advice of your friends and neighbors (to whom one also tends to… Read more »

Also, I’m curious why you think there is a turn to the right, globally? You may be right. I don’t know.
I do know that the new government of Greece is the most leftist government I’ve seen in Europe in a very, very long time. It includes avowed communists.
Also, it seems as if the economics paradigm has shifted toward the left with the current thinking (outside Germany, at least) being that European austerity isn’t working as well as the American and British tactic to get of of recession through big-government spending. Elsewhere, studies such as the book by T. Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (now available in Hungarian), also seem to be shifting thinking toward government intervention to “correct” gross social inequalities, and that societies with great inequality end up being worse even for the rich (who become roosters on a dungheap/kakas a szemétdombon if inequality is very high).
Yet there are also movements such as the Tea Party (seems to have lost steam at the mo.) that lean right, and certainly Hungary moved right in 2010.
So, I don’t know that there is any clear direction internationally. But if you see one, that interests me.


The US certainly mover to the right. Nixon would be to the left of the current Democrats. Also, the traditional left is said to be in a crisis, having lost its ideological power/wealth/coolness, it uniformly surrendered to capitalism (which opened up the space for Jobbik or Le Pen). Communism for many decades was a legitimate alternative in Western Europe, certainly in the “Third World”. Now you don’t see them at all, and there is no sustained alternative to capitalism. This total loss of even a utopian alternative represents a clear move towards right. Syriza, Podemos are more (leftist) protest parties, I guess, and their longevity remains to be seen. Moreover their actual leftism is also in question. I would predict that Fidesz probably introduced more leftist/etatist ideas than Syrza will. Also note that National Socialist parties are treated as right-wing whereas Jobbik or the Arrowcross were real leftist parties (only with a weird nationalistic-anti-Semitic ideology as opposed to internationalism).

Thanx to Webber, Mukikutya, kinx and Éva for their respective feedbacks up to this post. Some thoughts on what’s been said. If Fidesz is moving to the right (by coopting some of Jobbik’s ‘platform’), does that mean that Jobbik could move to the center? We’ve already seen attempts by Vona to soften Jobbik’s harsh image. Cant have 2 far-right parties vying for the same votes. (The Guardian article is a good one.) I’m not sure about “the economics paradigm [having] shifted toward the left”. I dont know that I know what that means in particular. Capitalism has become less fettered, which means that it has moved to the right. The union movement has weakened over the past few decades. Parties that relied on union votes have fewer people to potentially win. The Greek government is a reaction to the austere capitalism pushed by Merkel. Many savvy economists consider her course dead-wrong. It may actually be prolonging the European downturn. Interventionist capitalism (to right social wrongs) has nothing to do with Greece. The EU intervention was designed to squeeze Greece to pay down its debt. Viktor Orbán went from being a so-called liberal (after the regime change) to sitting on the… Read more »

Re: ‘The Hungarian Catholic Church is first and foremost a political entity’

For sure. Even Christ understood the politics of his day and girded himself for it. A true realist there.

What is interesting is the fact that the Church is at bottom a protector and teacher of moral values. The Church ideally always looks to the ‘good’. My concern is how much of the ‘Machiavelli’ is in her disposition when it comes to power and carrying out policy.

If no separation of church and state well I’d think it will be interesting to see how upholding ‘values’ will fare while dealing with policies and relationships involving the state. An imbalance in projecting moral rectitude and having certain institutional ‘personality’ characteristics can result in a real bad stew.


The Christian Democrats (KDNP) immediately welcomed the decision. According to Peter Harrach KDNP spokesman:

“The educational work can only be successful in terms of social inclusion, if it considers the child’s abilities and family background.”

They don’t seem to be so fast commenting on Orban’s new ideas about reinstating the capital punishment.

But according to the Hircsarda (the Hungarian they oppose public execution on Sundays, because it doesn’t bring families together. I disagree. Watching a public stoning in the past 2000 years was always a priceless family fun.

Pick up

About the photo: “Students in the Greek Catholic segregated school in Nyíregyháza”, it clearly shown on that photo that there are gypsy children in that school. Where is the segregation? Religious schools are traditionally strong components of the Western educational systems in Western Europe and USA.


Troll alarm!

The segregation is: This school has only Roma children!