Secular Hungary

Secular Hungary

Tag Archives: funding

Religious community With a Backbone

The Hungarian government has allocated 1,5 billion forints (ca. 5 million Euros) for projects organised by NGOs in memory of the holocaust. However, the (Hungarian) Jewish community of Nové Zámky in Slovakia has refused to accept the 1,5 million forint (ca. 5000 Euro) allocated to them, since they find it inacceptable that the Hungarian government treats the dead as the loss of Jewry only, but not as killed Hungarian citizens, while shifting all resposibility to the Germans. They also object to a statement by Mr Sándor Szakály, who has been appointed director of Veritas Institute for History. The institute was founded recently with the mission to present Hungarian history in a way that strenghtens Hungarian national identity, and Mr Szakály has become notorious for his opinion that the deportation that led to the killing of ca. 15-18 thousand Jewish refugees who had been deported to the Ukraine in 1941, just after Germany entered war against the Soviet Union, was actually merely an administrative measure regarding foreigners.
More than 4000 persons were deported from Nové Zámky to German death camps. One third of those who died in Auschwitz-Birkenau were Hungarian citizens.

The biggest Hungarian Jewish community, MAZSIHISZ is still debating whether or not to boycott the memorial activities of the government.


More EU Funds For Hungarian Churches

The Hungarian government gives another 1000 million Euro EU-funds to the churches, according to the weekly Világgazdaság. 4% of EU development funds may be used to fund public administration according to EU funding rules, but the governments are free to allocate these funds to other purposes and the Hungarian government has done so – stated Mr János Lázár, MP and head of the prime minister’s office, who from January 1st is also responsible for the distribution of EU monies received from the EU in the framework of their cohesion policies for the years 2014-2020, in his parliamentary answer to Mr László Varju (Democratic Coalition), who had asked on which grounds the government plans to allocate 300 000 million forints specifically to the churches, although church projects are also eligible for funding within regular programmes and have successfully applied for EU monies also during the funding period 2006-2013.
Mr Lázár, who has been notorious for having stated that a person’s worth is measured by their income, just has received a lot of attention this week, thanks to the internet news portal Cink, who found a Facebook post shared by Ms Donatella Failoni about a hunting party she took part in last December. The hunting party was organised by Mr Lázár and included actor Sándor Oszter (husband of Ms Failoni) as well as Archduke Michael of Habsburg and wife, Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein and wife. During the hunt 912 pheasants were shot for pleasure.

Three Hungarian Bishops

In December, Lutheran bishop Tamás Fabinyi was interviewed by the Hungarian newspaper Népszabadság. Mr Fabinyi argued for a better separation between the state and the churches. Before thinking of anything such as a secular state: according to him, this means that the state should give money and shut up, while the churches will tell the state what is right and wrong.

Meanwhile Bishop Gusztáv Bölcskei, head of the Hungarian reformed church, talked about money. The faith activities of the churches are mainly but not exclusively funded via income tax: taxpayers may dedicate 1% of their income tax to one of the churches, and while only 26% of taxpayers do so, legislation ensure that the churches receive also the non-dedicated part of this 1% of all income tax (churches receive additional funds, but this 1% constitutes quite a big chunk). Mr Bölcskei deplores recent tax cuts (benefiting rich families with many children, while taxes for low-income taxpayers actually increased), which mean that the churches receive less money than they could with higher taxation, and asks for a more predictable funding system. I am convinced that most NGOs as well as many state-financed institutions such as universities, cultural institutions, public schools and the whole health system will agree with Mr Bölcskei: unlike the churches, they indeed have suffered serious cuts in funding. Funding is indeed unpredictable, but in the case of churches, the unexpected changes always had a positive

Our third bishop is László Tőkés, previously bishop of the reformed church of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania and member of the European Parliament for Romania, who at the age of 62 is having another kid. This, of course, would be his private affair, except that his new wife happened to be 8 months pregnant at their wedding, which, assuming that Mr Tőkés is the father of the child, means that his lifestyle is not quite compatible with the teaching of his own church which forbids sex outside marriage.

EU-Funds for Green Energy: Only For Churches

While an earlier programme for increasing the use of green energy was so successful that the money was enough only for applicants from the state sector, and most applicants found themselves on a waiting list, they won’t get anything of the additional funds made available for this programme. According to the online newsportal Origo, The National Development Agency, which is managing EU funds in Hungary, plans to retroactively change the conditions for applying, so instead of NGOs and SMEs who already have invested their time and money in writing a project only green energy projects by churches will be eligible for funding.

Money again

While the new minister of finances, Mihály Varga had to prepare a 100 billion (ca. 345 million Euro) austerity programme for 2013 in case the (over)planned income target won’t be achieved, he still found 1.1 billion (3.8 million Euro) to finish a new church building in Budapest’s Gazdagrét area. The church was built during the first Orbán-government (1998-2002) from state funds, but they ran out of money.

Money’s Rolling

According to a government decree published last Friday, the Fidesz-KDNP government gives away another 1900 million forint (6,3 million euro, though since the prime minister appointed his finance minister, Mr György Matolcsy to become president of the National Bank, and pushed through another amendment of the constitution written by his own followers) the Hungarian forint looses its value rapidly) from the budget reserve to the Reformed Church, to improve the infrastructure of the church’s schools in Debrecen (while at present state schools have difficulties in providing for enough chalk). They are thinking long-term: for 2014, 3000, for 2015, 2700 and for 2016 2400 million forint will be provided for the same purpose.

Another couple of billions…

Not only many private persons took cheap credits in euro or Swiss francs, but also the churches. At the time, credits in foreign currencies were much cheaper than credits in forints, but with the crisis the value of the forint declined and nowadays 1 euro costs 300 forints, as opposed to the 250 before the crises. Many people are unable to service their debts, partly because of the increased mortgage, partly because they have lost employment. The upper middle class (who is wealthy enough to buy themselves out) was able to buy themselves out of their debts at a discount price (while poorer people did not have the means to do so).
But also the churches considered these credits to be a good opportunity, and although they are not loosing their only abode, Fidesz MP Mr János Lázár, close associate to the prime minister suggested the state should take over the churches’ foreign currency debts. Which would mean another couple of thousand million taxpayer money for the churches.

Excellence by Decree

Universities fulfilling a particularly high set of criteria receive some additional state funding due to their excellence. Along with the other Hungarian denominational institutions, Pázmány Péter Catholic University (PPKE) does not meet these criteria. In a fit of ecumenism, pastor and minister Mr Zoltán Balog plans to change the criteria for excellence to suit the Catholic university: according to his plans, universities have either to comply with the standards of excellence, or they have to be established based on international contracts, like PPKE, which is part of the concordat with the Vatican – and which has awarded a doctor universitas degree to deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjén for a paper of questionable quality and in a discipline they have no competence to award degrees in.

Tax Evasion a la Catholique

The court in Pécs is dealing with financial issues of the Catholic church in Pécs. As it seems, between 2005 and 2010, around 15-20 people declared falsely to be working in small parishes in order to be able to benefit from special income tax cuts for clergy working in small parishes. Also, all cash accumulated during the year (around 30-50 million forint per year) was transferred to a fund that is not audited by anyone. The use of these monies was monitored in a paper notebook which has disappeared.
At present, only one person, Mr Gyula W. is accused, although he hardly could have conducted all this without the knowledge of others involved. The issue was raised in 2010 when the church employed a new accountant who protested against these practices, called them illegal and lodged a complaint with state authorities. He was dismissed.

Another Billion For Churches

The Hungarian government is giving away 500 million forint each to the reparation of the Calvinist church at Kalvin tér in Budapest and to the baroque catholic dome in Kalocsa. This is (again) financed from the funds set aside for emergencies.

(Text of the government decision:, see p. 2130)

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