July 7, 2012
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As my readers know well, the Fidesz-goverment has been keen to persuade local governments to had over their schools to one of the thirty something denomiations enjoying the status of recognised church. One incentive is financial: while local authorities and civil organisations have to cover half of the costs of their schools themselves, churches get double funding from the central state budget. The other is incertainty: local schools will be taken over by teh central government, but it semms the local governments will have to provide for them without being able to have a say in the schools’ management and teaching programme.
But he capacity of churches is limited, so the towns of Ajka (in Western Hungary) and Hajdusámson (East Hungary) found no church partner except the pentecostals (a demonimation that has been present since the early 1980s, with Mr Sándor Németh as their leader, and under the name Hit Gyülekezete, i.e. congregation of faith), which are not especially liked by the governing party. Both in Hajsúsámson and in Ajka, not only praents protested (as in other towns), but also Fidesz and Jobbik party memebers, who suddenly recognised the importance of secularism and of not being forced to attend a school of a denominaton that is not yours. Finally, Hit Gyülekezete took over all schools except one.
So Fidesz leaders suddenly started saying that churches should not run more schools than their support in the society justifies, and not without parents’ consent. Which both sound nice, except of course for the motivation (besides pentecostals, Fidesz doesn’t welcome buddhist schools for disadvantaged Roma kids, either) that there are a few problems, as Fidesz believes that the support should be measured from the census. However, the census question was not a research on whether the population thinks schools should be run by churches… Also, most people tend to indicate the traditional denomination of their family (whether they themselves were baptised or not). According to the income tax data, where taxpayers can offer 1% of their income tax to a church (the only cost being 5 minutes to fill out the paper), 3/4 of taxpayers do not care enough for any one church to fill out a very simple form. Of the remaining 25%, 20% give to a church, while 5% to the secular alternative (which is not advertised on billboards as opposed to the churches).
Of course this reminds us pf the previous Fidesz government, which in 2001 swore that the census data on religion will not be used for political aims and a year later wanted to provide state funding to churches according to census data.
And as to the parents’ consent: if churches cooperate, 51% of parents can force 49% to submit to religious teachings, as church schools are entitled to force staff and pupils to submit to their doctrines.