Secular Hungary

Secular Hungary

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Top 10 Sexist Hungarian Politicians

You may remember, that for some people, the sinfulness of women is the cause of all bad things. Would you have thought that this includes homelessness? After Hungarian MP Mr István Varga stated that the cause of domestic violence is that wives are not bearing enough children, his colleague, the Christian Democrat Mr Tamás Lukács has now elaborated that women are responsible for homelessness, since if one visits a shelter, the story of 8 out of 10 men starts with „when I divorced…”, and the bill against domestic violence makes it possible to ban a man [who beats his wife and children] from his home.
The weekly Magyar Narancs has a top 10 list of the womanhaters of the „Respectable House” (as the Hungarian parliament is sometimes called):

1. Mr Blind Dog, József Balogh, ex-Fidesz: His wife had had to go to hospital int he middle of the night, after they came home from the wedding of the stepson. Balogh later claimed she fell over their blind shepherd dog („vak komondor”) and anyway, he didn’t remember much since he was tired and had drunk some alcohol at the wedding (which means his license should be taken away, since the alcohol limit is 0). The former wife claims she had told her successor about Mr Balogh’s beating habits.

2. György Gyula Zagyva, Jobbik, is reported to have said to MP Ms Ágnes Osztolykán: „Even though you’re a gypsy, I’d bang [lit.: stab] you.” He claims he said „they’d’, not „I’d”.

3. István Józsa, Socialists, has reportedly pulled the hair of Dr Anett Kubovicsné Borbély at a committee meeting. He claims she wasn’t shouting because of him but because she was angry about a violation of the rules. He also states that he has said „kiss your hands” to her ever since – which is a greeting form preferred by elderly men who have problems with independent women and think being „chivalrous” is a solution to their  problem. Especially younger working women (under 55 or so) find it patronising.

4. Isván Varga, Fidesz: the cause of domestic violence is that women do not bear enough children.

5. Tamás Deutsch, Fidesz, is rude through and through, preferably via Twitter. His twitter comment on an intervention of MP Tímea Szabó: „Timmie, the political blue-stocking on duty is showing her biceps.”

6. László Tahó, when asked by her to be quiet during the speech of her colleague, told the same MP Szabó: „What are you babbling here, girlie?”

7. István Klinghammer, state secretary for higher education and former rector of Eötvös Loránd University is a bit more complicated, but the gist is that small rural colleges will be enough for the local girls to get a degree in preschool education.

8. Viktor Orbán, prime minister (who alledgedly has been beating his wife for decades) just gave away his eldest daughter into marriage and showed his ideal world to be ne where men play football and the ladies weep at the wedding.

9. Zoltán Illés, state secretary insulted Ms Bernadett Szél– well, just read the statement of the CEU, where he teaches:

10. László Köver, Fidesz, speaker, whose job it is to keep things civil, and who actually finds this totally normal (as one journalist said, this sexist dialect is actually his mother tongue), while minor transgressions from the opposition parties are punished with heavy fines (MP Szabó had to pay one third of her allowance for holding a banner saying „Distribute land, don’t steal it”, referring to scandalous tenders for the lease of agricultural land belonging to the state).

No wonder, the Hungarian parliament has one of the lowest ratio of women MPs in the world…



Although the Hungarian state budget is tight, one sector is exempt from any cuts. Guess who. Read more of this post

Enigmatic Church law

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the governing party, Fidesz, has retracted it’s much criticised law on religious freedom and churches, anticipating a decision by the otherwise neutered constitutional court to annul it due to procedural reasons. However, the governing party is determined to restrict church privileges to some chosen few ones, and to do so by 1st January. This is why according to they made sure to put the church law on this Thursday’s agenda–before even deciding on the proposed law’s title and the person submitting it. This is a new record: until now, they were at least able to determine the title of the bill, even if the text was not yet ready.
So on Thursday’s agenda you find the “Bill on Churches’…….”, introduced by … on behalf of (…).

If you want to know about the state of the rule of law in Hungary, read  Kim Lane Scheppele’s overview:

Two tier freedom to religion

Four Christian MPs have introduced a new bill on religious communities last Friday. The main points and problems of the bill:

– Freedom of religion is conceived exclusively as freedom to religion. The MPs seem to believe that choosing not to be religious equals not using one’s right to religious freedom. Also, the law neither stipulates the right not to disclose one’s religion nor the right not to participate in any religious activity. The bill does not forbid that e.g. a Catholic pupil attending a Jewish school is forced to participate in Jewish religious activities or vice versa, as long as s/he is free to pursue Catholic activities. Also, an institution could require all their staff to attend a religious service.

The principle of state-church separation is rather interpreted to mean that the state does not interfere in church issues (besides paying and granting prerogatives, of course), than as the state’s duty to religious neutrality.

– The bill ensures special protection to religious persons (regarding legal prosecution) as well as to sacral places, activities and symbols. This may pose problems regarding the freedom of speech, as criticism, satire and artworks may be limited in order to enforce this protection. Freedom of speech may also be limited if churches are to be protected by not allowing demonstrations (as happened in Spain).

– It becomes harder to register a religious community as church. 20 years of operation and 1000 adherents have to be presented, as well as a description of the teachings and rituals. To qualify, teaching must provide an overall world view and be directed towards something supernatural. According to the law, the state may not examine the teachings of any religion (the law retains the text form the former law of 1990), but the court will set up an experts’ committee to decide whether a denomination applying for church status really is one. According to the lawmakers, this means no limitation on the freedom of religion, as religious activities can be pursued also within simple civil organisations. That’s true, but it’s harder to do so if you don’t get all the perks, such as 1% of the income tax (similar to the 8 per mille in Italy), tax exemptions, and if you get only half as much state money for your schools and have no right to push your religious education in state schools.

Though the law stipulates that all churches are equal, some are more equal: 44 denominations are listed which will be re-registered as churches by the minister, while all others (ca. 140) will have to re-apply to keep their status.

– The financial prerogatives remain (of course): not only religious and social activities, but also the sale of religious knick-knack, sports activities, publishing, and selling of any material connected with these activities is not considered for profit. Also the letting of premises qualifies as non profit, if they are at least partly used for religious activities (build a hotel, put a prayer room in it and you don’t have to pay taxes – as in Italy). Taxpayers can offer 1% of their income tax to a church (that’s the “second 1%”, the first goes to any NGO). Tax exemptions will be regulated in a separate law.

– Also in the future, church schools and social institutions of churches will be de facto 100% state financed (while schools and social institutions maintained by non religious NGOs at present receive ca. 50% of their costs from the state). This was the main reason for NGOs running schools or homes to become churches.

– Churches have the right to use special criteria for hiring their staff, in order to maintain their religious identity.

– Churches are not required to disclose information containing private data to state authorities (confession secret). This is understandable (confession), but a bit alarming as to the recent past of the Catholic church.

– The bill gives churches the right to participate in the preparation of new legislation!

– Churches may teach their religion in state schools. The costs will be borne by the state.

– The law requires churches to comply with the constitutional rules. Which probably won’t be enforced, as hardly any church carries out its activities according to constitutional rules, e.g. those stipulating equal treatment…

– There is one positive item: if a church person provides services to a non member, they have to make clear that they are a church representative.

Also, there is another small positive item in the justification attached to the proposed legislation: when referring to the international context, the text mentions Europe’s cultural, religious and humanist past.

A truly loving father

Mr László Tőkés, former bishop of the reformed church and present vice president of the European Parliament for the European People’s Party, for Romania and of course for the Hungarian minority of Romania, loves his son Máté very dearly (meanwhile his wife filed for divorce among others because of his extramarital affairs). So much that when a couple of weeks ago the city administration of Oradea imposed a fine of around 700 euros for opening a bar without the neccessary permits, Mr Tőkés took his phone (either in Brussels or in Oradea) and called the local authorities.
The younger Mr Tőkés is also interested in football, being player and head of the club called Partium SC, who plays in the fifth league of Romania (there is no sixth). In their interpretetion, the referees were keeping to discriminate against them, so the father took his EP vice president’s stationery and hand wrote a letter to the Romanian Football Federation, telling them that: ‘As the father of one of the players of Partium SC I am shocked about the incident at the match against Rév. As vice-president of the European Parliament, being responsible among others about sports affairs I consider the behaviour of the three referees that sealed the fate of the game unacceptable. In the European spirit of fair play I ask you to accept the complaint of the president of the Partium SC ragarding the repetition of the game.’

Equal and more equal citizens

As I mentioned, Hungary held elections in April. While we are still wating for the new government to take over, the parliament is already up and working, and the Society for Freedom Rights is doing their work: as they pointed out, the preambulum of one of last week’s bills goes as follows: “We, the members of the parliament of the Republic of Hungary, those who believe that God is the ruler of history and those who endeavour to understand history from other sources…” (“Mi, a Magyar Köztársaság Országgyűlésének tagjai, azok, akik hiszünk abban, hogy Isten a történelem ura, s azok akik a történelem menetét más forrásokból igyekszünk megérteni…”). This is not quite in line with the Hungarian constitution,
which stipulates the division between churches and the state and does not leave place for making a difference based on religious affiliation or non-affiliation.
But then, of course, the designated prime minister, Viktor Orbán has already made clear that he wants to draw a new constitution. The present one was made in 1949, which was the year of communist takeover, and while it was amended to suit the needs of a democracy, it still bears the “stigma” of its birth year. Orbán has also stated that he considers the Polish constitution a perfect model. Contrary to the Hungarian one, the Polish one is somewhat ambiguous about the separation of church and state as well as about state neutrality on religious issues.
The Polish constitution starts like this: “We, the Polish Nation – all citizens of the Republic, Both those who believe in God as the source of truth, justice, good and beauty, As well as those not sharing such faith but respecting those universal values as arising from other sources…” While this may sound fine at first, and par. 2 of article 25 does say that “Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction, whether religious or philosophical, or in relation to outlooks on life, and shall ensure their freedom of expression within public life”, the rest of paragraph 25 cannot be considered neutral: par. 1, 3 and 5 only mention churches and religious organisations but not to non-religious organisations promoting the theoretically equal  non-religious outlooks on life, and par. 4 even binds the state to conclude a treaty with the Vatican.

Our future seems quite clear.

UPDATE (May 26th):  Meanwhile another MP, Zoltán Kőszegi, stated in a debate on whether holocaust denial should be punished that ‘If we punish the denial of something, according to my feelings this should be denying the existence of God’ (“Ha valaminek a tagadását büntetjük, akkor szívem szerint elsősorban az istentagadást kezdeném el büntetni…”).
Meanwhile, we also got through the debate of the gorvernment programme for the next four years. Orbán managed to keep gods out of it (besides anything concrete enough to hold him accountable later), with one exemption: for some reason he chose to cite from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburgh Address that was also selected by Barack Obama for his inauguration ceremony: ‘…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ (“…ez a nemzet Isten uralma alatt újjászülessék a szabadságban, és hogy az állam, mely a népé, a nép által és a népért van, ne tűnjék el a föld színéről”).
By the way, there’s quite a debate about it, and I’m glad to say that many do speak out against it.

Catholic campaign

Hungary is going to have parliamentary elections in April. Though this comes not as a surprise, the bishop of Szeged-Csanád, László Kiss-Rigó participated in a party event, where he stated that the only party respecting Christian values is Fidesz, and then went on to speak up against secularisation and the separation between state and church.

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