Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hungary Enacts Restrictive New Religion Law

MTI reports that on Monday, Hungary's Parliament, by a vote of 254-43, passed a new law on "The Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities." A press release by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy (IRPP) calls it the "worst religion law in Europe." The law specifically recognizes 14 religious groups and communities. All others will need to obtain re-registration. Reports on the new law are unclear on whether re-registration requires judicial or parliamentary approval.  Only groups that have operated in Hungary for 20 years can be re-registered however, though just before final passage Parliament eliminated a provision that would also have required 1000 members to register. An analysis by IRPP says:
The Draft Law would “de-register” targeted minority faiths that have been registered as religions in Hungary since the adoption of the 1990 Religion Law, while allowing favored religious organizations to maintain their registered religious status and enjoy all the rights and privileges that flow to religious organizations under the Bill. Over a hundred religious organizations currently registered as such will be retroactively stripped of their status as religious communities and “de-registered” as religious organizations....
In response to the Institute’s Report, some proponents of this legislation in Hungary have attempted to justify these discriminatory provisions by arguing that they meet human rights standards because “deregistered” religious organizations may continue to operate as “civil associations performing religious activities”.