Fundamental Rights Are Violated by the New Hungarian Church Law

The Act CCVI of 2011 on the right to freedom of conscience and religion and the legal status of churches, denominations and religious communities of Hungary has established one of the greatest curtailment of privileges since the transition in 1989. In defence of 9 churches, deprived of their legal status, the HCLU, seeking remedies, has turned to the CC and to the ECtHR.

Regarding the new rules on the CC a law can be challenged before the Court upon only a single complaint and in exceptional cases. However, the Church Law violates the main aspects of all the churches’ and citizens’ rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to due process, to seeking remedies and the requirements of the rule of law, established in the Fundamental Law of Hungary. The ground of the application to the ECtHR is, similarly, the situation in which the confiscation of right flows from the law itself. According to the application, the law is contrary to the applicants’ rights to a fair trial, to an effective remedy, to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion and breaches the prohibition of discrimination set forth in the European Convention of Human Rights.

  • The Church Law has deprived existing religious communities from their settled rights and legal status as a church. Moreover, as a result of the failures of the legislative procedure, churches had only one day to prepare for the application of the much more restrictive and much less clearer provisions of the new law.
  • Lack of the right to a fair trial and to an effective remedy is a direct consequence of the fact that the parliament, instead of the court, has the right to recognise an association as a church, since the parliament has no duty to justify its decision and there is no higher instance to review that. (In the HCLU’s view the constitutional complaint cannot be regarded as an effective domestic remedy.)
  • The Church Law curtails the right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion since a) it creates too narrow a criteria for the recognition of a religious association as a church; meanwhile b) it provides possibilities too wide for the parliament to refuse recognition; c) by the definition of the concept of „religion” it does not ensure the state’s duty of fairness and impartiality regarding the plurality of ideas and beliefs; and finally d) it does not ensure the principle of the separation of church and state, since the recognition procedure is dominated by political parties’ interests.
  • The law discriminates certain beliefs by the arbitrary definition of the concept of „religion” and by the recognition of certain churches, picked up arbitrarily, without the application of the criteria settled in the law. The privileged treatment has lacked the sufficient and reasonable justification.

The complete constitutional court complaint in Hungarian is available here (pdf)>>

The complete ECtHR-application in Hungarian is available here (pdf)>>

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