Monday, December 07, 2015

European Court Upholds Hungary's Refusal To Award Damages To Dismissed Pastor

Last week in a Chamber Judgment, the European Court of Human Rights held by a 4-3 vote that there had not been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, Sec. 6(1), when Hungary refused to adjudicate a dispute between a pastor and his Hungarian Calvinist Church.  At issue were claims by a pastor who had been terminated by the Church for stating in a local newspaper that State subsidies had been paid unlawfully to a Calvinist boarding school.  In Nagy v. Hungary, (ECHR, Dec. 1, 2015), a majority of the court, with fragmented reasoning spanning two opinions, concluded that there had not been a denial of the right to a hearing in the civil courts, particularly when a claim could have been brought in ecclesiastical courts.  Three judges dissented, saying in part:
[I]t is more than doubtful that it would be possible at all to show that (and how) the settlement, by a State court, of the pecuniary dispute between the applicant and the Calvinist Church could pose a “real” and “substantial” risk to that church’s autonomy.
The Chamber Judgment may be appealed to the Grand Chamber. ADF issued a press release on the decision.