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Churches divided on Hungary’s new religion law
Jonathan Luxmoore, Religion News Service
July 19, 2011
2 MIN READ TIME

Churches divided on Hungary’s new religion law

Churches divided on Hungary’s new religion law
Jonathan Luxmoore, Religion News Service
July 19, 2011

Christian leaders in Hungary are divided over a restrictive

new law on religion, with larger denominations welcoming its curbs on church

activities and smaller groups voicing fears for their future.

“We wanted a new law to make it more difficult to establish churches here — and

we’re happy the present government has now done something,” said Zoltan Tarr,

general secretary of the Hungarian Reformed Church, which claims around a fifth

of the country’s 9.9 million inhabitants as members.

The new “Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on

Churches, Religions and Religious Communities” was enacted July 12 with backing

from Hungary’s governing center-right Fidesz party.

Under the law, only 14 of 358 registered churches and religious associations

will be granted legal recognition, while others will have to reapply for legal

registration after two-thirds approval in parliament.

However, the final law was “very different” than a draft shown to faith groups

in May, said Laszlo Debreceni , a leader of Hungary’s Church of God, which

traces its roots to 1907 but was stripped of recognition under the new law.

“I don’t think anyone will come and tell us we can’t worship God,” Debreceni

said. “But it will raise serious issues that some churches are now on the

approved list and others not.”

Under the law, religious groups will need at least 1,000 members and a 20-year

presence in Hungary to be recognized. The Hungarian Methodist church and

Islamic community were among those stripped of their previous legal status.

The law recognizes Hungary’s predominant Reformed, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and

Orthodox churches, as well as the Jewish community.