Secular Hungary

Secular Hungary

Tag Archives: jobbik

Registration of Jews (and anyone else, too)

There has been great outrage about MP Márton Gyöngyösi’s (of the near-neo-nazi Jobbik) proposal to register Jews, and a big rally against antisemitism was held last Sunday in Budapest with speakers from both opposition parties and the governing Fidesz (though prime minister Viktor Orbán is refusing to condemn Mr Gyöngyösi’s speech). But those who are outraged now forget that Fidesz has already decided some time ago to register people’s religion. Read more of this post


The Roma, The Jesuits, The Far Right and Public Money

Balog Zoltán, state secretary for social inclusion and former Calvinist pastor, gave two million forints to the Jesuit Roma School for a course on public relations. The twenty young Roma graduates selected for the course were a bit surprised to learn that the module on media was to be held by members of Echo TV, which is known for its good relations with the far right party Jobbik, which is known for its proximity to the Magyar Gárda, which is known for intimidating Roma in Gyöngyöspata and other villages.
Two of the young graduates chose to speak up, but as soon as they questioned the credibility of a far right tv station teaching Roma on how to work with the media, they were expelled from the course. One of them, Mr József Márton found it strange that when they examined non-verbal communication, all positive examples were from members of the government party, while all negatives represented persons from one of the opposition parties. The other, Ms Ilona Nótár turned to Mr József Hofher, the Jesuit overseeing the course–on account of their old acquaintance. What she got in answer was a short patronising letter telling her that democracy means him not interfering in the course content and informing her that her repeated criticism was destructive and her style of constant objection leading to nowhere.

The Sunday fights

As in other European countries and even at EU level, Christian churches are lobbying also in Hungary for a ban on working on Sundays. With a twist.
While banning Sunday work was put on the agenda by the Christian democrats (KDNP), the far right party Jobbik has picked up the issue and introduced yesterday a proposal to ban employers from requiring their employees to work on Sundays. With loopholes, of course.
While according to the bill, it will be forbidden to work on Sundays, companies that due to the nature of their work have to stay open on Sundays (such as tourism, police, health services, or factories producing on a 24/7 basis, and, probably, church services, though they are not mentioned separately) may do so but will have to pay double wages to their staff (except if they are hired part-time for work on Saturday and Sunday), who may not work more than 6 hours on Sundays.
However, the bill (which by the way is orthographically somewhat challenged) does not only aim to amend labour law but also the law regulating retailers. While the justification of the proposal says that the aim is to protect human dignity and the family (as an institution) and refers to tradition and the religious freedom of Christian workers, there is an unmistakable nationalist edge to it, which gets us to the twist. The issue of Sunday work has also earlier been connected to the evil multinational supermarkets exploiting the Hungarian workforce to maximise their revenue, and this reappears in the justification of the proposal, according to which the present regulation of Sunday work is too weak and does not serve anyone except multinational companies, but violates the constitution (obviously you can’t enjoy family life on Saturdays and rest on any other day than Sunday) as well as free market competition, because according to the proponents (who don’t give any details), smaller retailers are disadvantaged compared to big ones. The proposed changes to the law on retail services basically amount to closing down big supermarkets on Sundays (with the exception of 12 Sundays a year), while small shops which can be run with no more than 2 employees working at a time and shops smaller than 175 square meters located at train stations, airports and the like may offer their services also on Sundays – except for Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
The former suggestions by KDNP were more specifically directed at preferring the CBA retail franchise, whose owners, the Lázár brothers (who are also internationally renown as horse coach drivers) have heavily supported the Fidesz-KDNP pair before the elections. The KDNP suggestion would have forced big supermarkets to stay closed on Sundays, while CBA shops would have been able to open.
However, no one has ever given an explanation why being exploited by a national employer is more acceptable than working for a foreign company. But this is of course not so much about workers rights but rather about church power.
The proposed bill:

Morals at the protestant university

Hungary has about 80 universities and colleges. Many of them are of course minor province institutions, including a lot of theological schools caring to the needs of one particular denomination for pastors  (needless to say that they receive their funds from the Hungarian state, too). Not so Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church (KRE), which, together with Pázmány Péter Catholic University is an institution with scientific ambitions, and has not only a theologial faculty, but also one for humanities and one for law. Until now, it also had three PhD schools. One of them, the law school, has now been closed down by the Accreditation Committee for continuos non-compliance with basic academic standards. One of these says that in order to run a PhD school, an institution needs to have a certain number of specialists in the field who already have students awarded a PhD degree, and not only the now closed down PhD school, but also the PhD school in literary history is unable to meet this criterion.
However, according to the weekly HVG, the latter seems to have also committed fraud.
Probably in order to produce the necessary amount of PhD graduates, they have awarded three degrees in Spring 2009 which had to be revoked by the Accreditation Committee. In order to provide one of the professors, András Szabó, with a PhD graduate, they transferred the supervision of one aspirant to him, just three weeks before he had to defend this dissertation (the opponent was the wife of Szabó, who also teaches at the univesity, and also the direct boss of the PhD applicant was involved in the process – she, by the way, is the daugther-in-law of a well-known professor on the PhD-board of the Accreditaion Committee). The original supervisor wasn’t informed about the transfer of her student, and when she protested, she was dismissed from the school. Anyway, the school got a year to solve their problems, which they were apparently unable to do–accroding to the weekly HVG, if the Committee does keep to its standards, they will have to close down the school, leaving KRE with one PhD school only.
The university is practically the warplace of the reformed church’s internal conflicts. The university was founded in 1993 by the bishop Loránt Hegedűs who at the time was head of the reformed church of Hungary, but has been removed from his post. As the university was formally maintained by his diocese but supervised by the head of the church, conflicts were programmed. There were also financial irregularities in 2008. The then rector left, and at the time, it also turned out that he had worked for the communist secret service before 1989. Another ex-rector, Sándor Tenke is being accused of forgeing official documents. The present one is an in-law of the Hegedűs clan, which is well konwn for its activities in the far right scene, with a Mrs Loránt Hegedűs (I understand she’s the sister of the rector) being MP for the very right wing party Jobbik.

Teachers and students are also fighting online. If you speak Hungarin and want to read a rather disgustion version (probably partly of questionable reliability) of the deeds of the univesity officials (extending the above mentioned charges, including ad hominem attacks, accusations that the university does not require enough religious studies for non-theology students, and claiming that funds have been redirected to the far right wing party Jobbik), you can find their blog here.

How to hand over state schools to churches easily

The Hungarian Teachers’ Union wrote a letter to the constitutional court protesting against a new bill (No. LI of 2010) modifíng the law on public education. According to the bill, local authorities may hand over their schools to a church institution on the spot, without delay. According to the union, this step violates teachers’ and pupils’ religious freedom, as this would mean that anyone may suddenly find themselves in a religious institution, and in some places, there may not be any secular alternative.
Though schools are mainly state financed, they are maintained by the local government, and as the state subsidies are not enough, the schools budget is usually supplemented from the (also rather tight) local budget. Church schools, on the contrary, receive an avarage of the supplements provided by the local government in addition to the regular state subsidies. Therefore handing over a local school to a church is financially rewarding for local goverments,
as it means they don’t have to use their own funds for topping up schools budgets.
As I mentioned earlier, the new governing party tends to mix religion into state affairs quite openly. The new person responsible for education, state secretary Mrs Rózsa Hoffmann, favours a “traditional” education with a very fixed curriculum (leaving just 10% of teaching time for the teacher to adjust classes to pupils needs and preferences), focusing on the strengthening of national identity, and is in favour of introducing compulsory religious education (it is not quite clear which of them – only half of Hungarians are catholic, even by the most church-biased countings). She also believes that socially deprived kids (mostly gypsies/roma) should get not the “best possible” education, but one that is “adequate as compared to their skills”, which is on of the reasons why she was considered unchristian by an American Hungarian commentor (
The new state secretary for culture, Mr Géza Szőcs has some unusual ideas, too. He seems to think that decisions in the framework of state progammes to subsidise cultural events are made by desk officers (in fact, desk officers are only managing the programmes, but decisions on how to fund what are made by external committes composed of artists themselves…) In an interview last week, he told journalists he wanted to set up an experts group to research the genetic origin of Hungarians, in order to settle the (non-existing) question whether Hngarians are Finno-Ugric (I wrote earlier about this). The problem is, of course, that the relation is not a genetic but a linguistic one – our genes are not related to other Finno-Ugric people, but the structure of our language and around 1000 of our words are. Practically the Hungarian language has long ago changed its people.

Creationist methods against linguistics

In Hungary, it’s not only creationists and ID-people who try to use the law and the media as a stage for their issues instead of scientific debates. The relatively new Jobbik, a political party on the far right (which is sometimes called fascist) has launched a petition against something they call “Finno-Ugrian theory of origin”, in order to force “the heritage of Hunor and Magor” into the schoolbooks.

Of course the “Finno-Ugric theory of origin” refers only to the origin of the Hungarian language, not the people, as its opponents suggest. On the contrary, scholars make clear that Finno-Ugrian family tree is confined to lingustics only. Genetically speaking, Hungarians hardly differ from their neighbours and from Europeans in general. As to the language, its structurally similar to Finnish, Estonian and a couple of other languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Russia, the nearest relatives being the Khanti and Mansi languages. The theory that the Sami and Hungarian language show similar traits was first put forward by János Sajnovics who during a Nordic expedition had the chance to study the Sami language; his 1770 study marks the beginning of this theory, that wa later refined and expanded to include what is now known as Finno-Ugrian languages. The idea was immediately rejected by some Hungarians who considered this extended family not noble enough (‘halszagú’, i.e. ‘smelling of fish’), but linguistically, it has been proved to be sound. Linguistics has of course a complex set of methodological approaches, but its most important feature is that for sound results you have to compare sets of structures (e.g. comparing the structure of spatial expressions and its postfixes), not individual words or expressions. However, certain people are convinced that this lowly family tree is promoted with the aim to lessen Hungarian aplomb. Instead, they prefer to promote other, nobler kinships that have been refuted long ago, such as the idea that Hungarian is related to Sumerian (some people are also convinced that Hungarians are Scythians, and Jesus was king of Parthia and therefore really a Hungarian).
The proponents of the petition seem to be illustrious, at least at first. 10 of the seem to have a doctoral degree, of which 4 are listed in the Hungarian list of PhD-holders (the other five may have a doctoral title not equivalent to a PhD in law or medicine or hold a degree abroad), none of them in linguistics (although there are other linguistic fields than exploring Finno-Ugric relations). There’s one philosopher, the ‘anthropologist, biologist’ turns out to have a degree in ‘sports science’, the third one is a physicist, and with the last one’s name 5 different persons are listed, none of them in humanities (of course this is based on identical names, but I don’t have their birth date to double check). A part of them is listed as member of the ‘Institute of Hungarian Studies’, which sounds nice but is operated from a private address, and judging from the stylistics used on their homepage, they have lost touch with the version of Hungarian we use in the Carpathian basin today.
To make it short: use of media and legal initiative instead of scientifically compelling arguments – doesn’t that remind you of something?

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