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Anglicans welcome in Hungary: The Church of England Newspaper, March 9, 2012, p 7. March 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Uncategorized.
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The Hungarian National Assembly in Budapest

The Hungarian parliament has expanded its list of formally recognized churches from 14 to 32, adding the Church of England its list of government approved sects.

The 27 February 2012 vote was boycotted by the opposition, but the governing Fidesz Party and its coalition ally the Christian Democrats were able to pass the an amendment to the Religious Communities bill with a two-thirds majority.  State approval gives religious organizations tax-free status and allows them access to government funding for their social services agencies.  Ministers of approved religious groups are also authorized to undertake pastoral work in state institutions including prisons, hospitals and the military.

On 14 July the Hungarian parliament adopted “The Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities” Law, by a vote of 254 to 43.  The new law recognized the Roman and Greek Catholic Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Lutherans, the Calvinists, select Jewish denominations, the Hungarian Unitarians, the Baptists and the Faith Church as churches.  The Church of England, which counts St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Budapest as part of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, along with 347 other religious groups lost their legal status as churches.

The ruling prompted harsh criticism from human rights activists and a legal challenge.  The Washington-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy condemned the new law saying it “creates the most burdensome registration system in the entire OSCE region while codifying systematic discrimination of religious minorities. The Religion Law is completely inconsistent with fundamental human rights as it contravenes the principles of equality and non-discrimination.”

In December, the Constitutional Court struck down the church law on procedural grounds, but did not review the substance of the law.  Parliament then reauthorized the law and 66 religious organizations petitioned to be added to the approved list.

Last week Parliament added 18, the Church of England, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a number of Muslim and Buddhist groups.

A spokesman for the Diocese in Europe told The Church of England Newspaper that it welcomed the grant of official and legal recognition to the Anglican Church.  The vicar of St Margaret’s, Dr. Frank Hegedűs “welcomed this clarification” that confirms the status of the Church of England within Hungary.

“The decision follows a number of meetings and representations in recent weeks and has shown the strength of support for this English speaking ministry in the heart of this capital city,” the diocesan spokesman said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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