Thursday, 25 November 2010
The research has been conducted among 1500 adults randomly selected from the church's registers containing a total of around 300 thousand persons (ca. 3% of the total population). According to the findings, 90% of these persons consider their religious affiliation important, and most of them do pay the "church tax", which is collected by the church itself, so it is reasonable to assume that the 300 thousand persons not just happen to be in some register because they were baptised, but who are there due to some affiliation.
Still, Mr Prőhle deplores the secularisation of church members,
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
While banning Sunday work was put on the agenda by the Christian democrats (KDNP), the far right party Jobbik has picked up the issue and introduced yesterday a proposal to ban employers from requiring their employees to work on Sundays. With loopholes, of course.
Sunday, 7 November 2010
I will not discuss the relationship between the freedom of speech and religious feelings -- Freedom House has done that, pointing out how these types of laws can easily be used to silence critics and get rid of anyone you want to. The freedom of religion is a segment of the freedom of conscience and of speech, and without the latter, the former is not possible.
Anyone reading the text carefully will note that the defense of religious feelings is not left to the faithful - not only persons', but also institutions' feelings are protected... (and churches do have the financial means to sue, of course)...
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
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.'
Monday, 25 October 2010
Out of four medals named after the communist (!) prime minister Imre Nagy who became the national hero of the uprisal of 1956, one was received by a member of the board of the European protestant Hungarian Free University, a private club promoting portestant values.
Out of two Grand Crosses of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian State was given to the catholic cardinal of Alba Iulia in Romania for his merits in keeping up the religious life of the Hungarian minority and the deepening of religoius life.
25 medium crosses were awarded, 10 of them to religious persons for deeds such as the promotion of Christian values, the promotion of Jewish religous life, promoting the reformed church issues among the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, for redeeming lutheran values, for the strengthening of the links between state and churches, and for the promotion of (Catholic) faith schools.
Saturday, 23 October 2010
This list includes of course taxpayers only (i.e. people who have a legal income and pay at least minimal taxes), so it does not include for example retired people who have no other income than their retirement benefits. But it still gives a clue about how many adherents churches have.
At present, one needs 100 members to found a church, and though the "statues" (main teachings etc.) have to be handed at registration, the state has no right to check them in any way.
The tax office lists 185 churches for 2009, the biggest one being the catholics, with 534 thousand people offering their 1% (45% of onepercents dedicated), and on the second place, lagging far behind, the reformed church with 186 thousand (20%). The third 'big traditional' church, the Lutherans has 49 thousand taxpaying members (4%). Another 3 make it over the 10000 adherents limit that Szászfalvi has suggested should be introduced: the baptists (1.3%), the Krishnas (1.1%) and a pentecostal church called Hit Gyülekezete (the Faith Church, 1.6%).
Of course as probably not only the taxpayers would count, some more churches will meet the criterion, such as the biggest Jewish and buddhist groups, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses. Overall, there are 25 churches that got more than 1000 donations, and only 15 of them have over 2000 income tax paying members who are devoted enough to fill out two lines on a form. Of these 25, 13 are Christian, 5 Buddhist, and 2 Jewish. Among the remaining, there are the Scientologists, the Jains (who are basically supporting an animal shelter called Noah's Ark), the Krishnas, an esoteric church and another with the aim to reestablish giving birth as spiritual act (supposedly related to the fact that anyone who would like to give birth at home is considered crazy by the medical establishment). Of course some more churches can count on retaining their status as 'established', nemaly those who have been present 'traditionally'. I can only guess about them, but I suppose Jewish and Christian orthodox groups (e.g. the Greek and Serb churches) will be among them, and the muslims will prbably argue that they are traditionally present in Hungary (after all, we had 150 years of Turkish rule, hadn't we...).
The list also contains the total amount of 1%-s donated to the curches, so one can count the avarage personal income (or rather, about the income tax) of the members of one particlar church. Among the over 1000 sized churches, the biggest taxpayers are (reinforcing stereotypes) the Jews (the avarage 1% of the income tax is 5900 forint per taxpayer, while Jews' 1% was 12509 forint for the biggest Jewish group and 10321 forint for the 'Status quo ante' group - the two groups separated in the 19th century over an argument on the relationship with the state).
The by faaar richest church members are Christians, however: the 84 members of the Korean Christians' 1% amounted to 58385 forint per person, which is ten times the avarage income (no typo, the amount was similar last year).
Before I forget: 25% of taxpayers donating their 1% gave it to the secular causes. Their avarage income avarages the general avarage.
But: most taxpayers just don't care. There are about 3.6 million taxpayers, of whom 24.8% are close enough to their church to donate it ca. 2 minutes to fill out the form (for the big denominations: 14.8% catholics, 5% protestant, 1.4% Lutherans, with the rest under 1%), and another 8.3% are dedicated enough to a quite impersonal secular cause (getting no media coverage) to offer their 1%. (Data corrected on 23/10/2010 23:32, after I've found the exact number of persons paying actually more than 0 forint taxes.)
The list: http://www.apeh.hu/szja1_1/kimutat/2010_rend_egyh_kiem.html
Friday, 8 October 2010
It is rather easy to establish a church in Hungary at present: you need 100 members and you have to submit your statutes and main teachings - there is no testing if the community is a religious one, though it has happened that some requests for registration have been denied.
Mr Szászfalvi said in an interview that they plan to increase the number of members needed to 10.000. Meeting this criterion will pose some problems also for well established communities (such as ca. 150 followers of the byzantine rites present in Hungary since 1800 years or so), so they want to give an exemption for churches present in Hungary for a longer time, i.e. so-called "historical churches". Some big foreign communities such as the mormons may also have to fight for their status.
Of course we do have 'business churches' (bizniszegyházak), i.e. pseudo-religious communities eatablished solely for financial reasons. But surely the most efficient way to stop them would be to just do away with their financial privileges and treating them as any other non profit assosiacion? - Anyway, the state secretary's plans at least prove that churches do indeed enjoy privileges.
But then, as one of the critics mentioned, Christianity also started with only a dozen disciples.
The Lutheran church wants the constitution to protect monogamous marriage and family life. They do not accept same-sex marriage and believe that the present regulation (same-sex couples may enter registered partnerships) is enough to protect against discrimination.
The catholic church agrees with the need to provide special constitutional protection for the institution of marriage and family, especially those with many children.
The Christian Democrat Party (the one which gives the deputy prime minister while making it into the parliament only as an ally of the governing party Fidesz) has also asked the National Organisation of Big Families for their opinion. They wish the constitution to declare that marriage is a lasting bond between one man and one woman, with the aim to produce and raise children. They also want the state to take over the financial burden of raising children and suggest that the right to accommodation should be declared in the constitution. They also want to give the vote to children – it would be of course the parents who would vote on behalf of their children.
The catholic church also wants to forbid working on Sundays. According to their view this is needed for the protection of the family and religious freedom.
Several organisations want the holy crown mentioned in the constitution, the Lutherans suggest the following preamble: “The Hungarian people, thankful for the 1000 year history of Hungary symbolised by the pristine crown of the Hungarian kings...” [No mention of the word “saint” here, of course.] The right-wing Organisation of Hungarians Abroad and the Professors’ Batthyány Circle also suggest the constitution to refer to the crown. They also want to give more power to the president: if he believes a legislation to be contrary to the constitution, he cannot be forced to sign it.
The National Elderly Citizens Association, asked for their opinion by Fidesz, believes that the constitution has to refer to the crown in order to secure the continuity of the state. The new constitution should declare the freedom of the state and the freedom of the members of the Holy Crown. The latter are the members of the state-founder Hungarian nation where ever they live and national minorities as long as they live within the territory of Hungary. Anyone else can live only as a guest in Hungary.
As I’ve already mentioned, the State Audit Office also believes the constitution should refer to the crown.
As to the status of religious communities, the catholic church considers it important that the constitution guarantees that churches can operate independently, free from state intervention. Many aspects of their teachings could be present in the constitution, such as the respect for human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity, the rights of parents, the right to religious education and the freedom to establish schools.
The Lutherans wrote that they expect the new constitution to strengthen freedom of religion and conscience including the religious freedom of individuals and the autonomy of churches. They would be glad if the constitution also listed crucial values of Christian origin such as the protection of life and methods to ensure empathy towards each other and cooperation, as well as to organise community life. If these are present, it is not necessary to openly refer to Christianism and God.
The reformed churches (Calvinists) want more rigorous criteria for the state registration of religious communities. They also want to include a guarantee that state and church institutions get the same funding for public services. The Jewish community agrees with that.
The Jewish community wishes to include the ten commandments in the preamble, as well as the Judaeo-Christian roots of the Hungarian culture. They also want to include collective rights, such as the right to human dignity of groups.
Actually the only suggestion for the broadening of rights came from the left umbrella organisation of trade unions (as the suggestion to give parents the right to vote in the name of their children violates the basic democratic value that each person’s vote has the same weight). Besides maintaining legislation protecting workers, they would like to introduce the right to opposition and include data protection into the constitution. They also suggest that any kind of private militia should be banned, and that no titles of nobility or similar prerogatives may be given or used.
Religious freedom (both positive and negative) is guaranteed also in the present constitution. The article on religious freedom (no. 60) of the present constitution goes as follows:
(1) In the Republic of Hungary everyone has the right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
(2) This right includes the free choice or acceptance of religion or any other conviction according to one's conscience, and the liberty to express, or refuse to express, to exercise or teach one's religion and conviction through the performance of religious acts and rites, either individually or together with others, either publicly or in a closed circle.
(3) In the Republic of Hungary the Church functions in separation from the State.
The present Hungarian constitution in English: http://www.lectlaw.com/files/int05.htm
For data about founding and funding, and religious attendance, check here and here.
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Anyway, the Hungarian Court of Auditors (Állami Számvevőszék), which got some notoriety for deciding financial disputes between the state and the (catholic) church in favour of the church, has been asked to give its point of view on the constituton. Here's is what they issued:
"Proposals of the Court of Auditors
Consttitutional rules on state finances
- The Constitution of Hungary has to open a new chapter in our history. It has to close down the post-communist legislational and social progress.
- The Hungarian people needs a loveable and repectable basic law that serves social renewal and integrates experiences made.
- The new constitution has to express both in its structure and content that based on our historical heritage of 1100 years we wish to establish a set of norms applicable in the 21st century. Therefore among others the following have to be referred to in the preamble:
- the Holy Crown as a preeminent relic of history,
- the impact of Christianity on the development and strenghtening of the moral firmness of the nation
Cited at: http://galamus.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31745:az-asz-javaslata-az-uj-alkotmanyhoz&catid=79:kiemelt-hirek&Itemid=115
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Anyway, he's visited the pope on September 10th, and the two of them had a look at various European countries' constitutions, found out that in 8 of them the church is explicitly included, and Schmitt 'proudly announced ' (these were his words) that 'if everything goes well, Hungary will become the ninth'. They also agreed on the importance of Hungarian minorities having priests speaking Hungarian, and according to Schmitt, the pope said he is well aware of this problem. Other topics were the financing of Hungarian church schools, and the EU presidency of Hungary starting next January. According to Schmitt, the pope even mentioned how much he appreciated that the Remonstrances of Saint Stephen, king of Hungary to his son, Imre (who was later canonised, as his father was) are availabe on the president's homepage.
The Vatican's Osservatore Romano also mentioned the visit, but in much less detail.
As good catholic, the president of course kissed the pope's ring:
While there are positive suggestions such as improving teacher training, increasing the time children have to psent at school, and having more sports lessons, there are some disputable ideas, such as the one saying preference should be given to other languages than English - instead of English, not along with it (let's be realistic: nowadays, if you have a BA, you won't get a job with at least some English).
While according to the blueprints, the direct state subventions for schools maintained by the local governments are to be increased to 90% of the total cost, these subsidies will amount to 100% in the case of faith schools.
The members of the experts' group are held secret (accodring to the ministry, the membes do not receive any money, and some of them don't want to have their names disclosed) by the ministry, but according to FigyelőNet 'compared to the fact that faiths schools tot up to about seven percent of the sector, faiths schools are -- to put it mildy - overrepresented in the shaping of the strategy dealing with the hole system.' The somwhat piqant part is that though the minister is a member of both Fidesz and KDNP, Fidesz's experts are not involved in the preparation. Or in other words: a party that would get around 1% of the votes if they had to run independently of Fidesz is shaping edcuation accodring to their private agenda.
Monday, 6 September 2010
A detailed account on Viktor Orbán's first 100 days as prime minister - in German:
Sunday, 5 September 2010
However, according to the weekly HVG, the latter seems to have also committed fraud.
Sunday, 29 August 2010
Now, he's spent a couple of days in Castelgandolfo, the summer residence of the pope, and participated in the foundation of a network of christian legislators with the aim to provide a platform for members of palriaments and clerics to discuss moral values.
Schools maintained by the local governments receive most of their funds directly from the state budget, but as this is not enough, the local governments have to top these up. For faith schools (and other social services such as homes for the elderly) the situation is a bit different: they not only receive the same state subsidies local government schools, but also the amount the local governments have spent on their schools (in exchange, they have to teach according to hte national curriculum). Of course it's difficult to figure out exactly how much money has been spent by the local governments on their schools, so there is ample room for disagreement and church complaints. This system is enshrined in the Vatican treaty (Concordat) but applied to all faith schools (but not to private schools maintained by others than churches).
Hoffmann now wants to improve the financial situation of faith schools by increasing the ratio of funds provided by the state, saying this should amount to 90% of the costs, and the difference--to be paid by the local governments in the case of local schools--will be taken over by the state in the case of faith schools. From her statement it seems, that though having become a state secretary a few months ago and having been the head of the Pedagogy Department at Pázmány Peter Catholic University (after decades at the ministry of education and as a headmistress of a secondary school), she is not quite familiar with how schools are being financed in the last 12 years. Therefore, contrary to her intentions and somewhat ironically, if this plan is carried out, local governments's secular school will fare better financially compared to the present situation :-).
Sunday, 27 June 2010
The ruling party, Fidesz, decided to propose Mr Pál Schmitt as president, who used to be a world class fencer. He also was head of the Hungarian Olympic Committe, when the committe decided (against the wish of the athletes) to boycott the 1984 games in Los Angeles, and he acted as director of the posh Astoria Hotel and -- also during the communist era -- as a state secretary. However, this career path did not pose an obstacle to a party career in the otherwise very vocally anti communist Fidesz. The crucial factor for the continuity of his career obviously is his widely known lack of any spine whatsoever.
Still, he does not credit Fidesz for his new vocation: "And if God has entrusted me with presidency, I will do it and will be up to it, together with my wife, the first lady." ("S ha már a jóisten rám testálja az elnökséget, csinálni, bírni fogom, a feleségemmel, a first ladyvel együtt.")
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Though schools are mainly state financed, they are maintained by the local government, and as the state subsidies are not enough, the schools budget is usually supplemented from the (also rather tight) local budget. Church schools, on the contrary, receive an avarage of the supplements provided by the local government in addition to the regular state subsidies. Therefore handing over a local school to a church is financially rewarding for local goverments,
Still, such things happen once in a while,
Monday, 24 May 2010
For not quite clear reasons, the sisters closed down the building, so the kids found themselves in front of closed doors one morning. The operators of the school had the locks taken down, so teaching continues, but the sisters, who want to sell the building, claim that it is dangerous, while the friars deny that, based on an expert's opinion.
Anyway, the school year is over soon...
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Conclusion: another way to throw out a lot of money when we are short of it...
Sunday, 9 May 2010
Of course calling someone homosexual is not an insult in itself. Legally speaking, the list is rather an offence against privacy,
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Friday, 16 April 2010
Now, three months later,
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Csaba Fazekas and György Gábor argue that the churches did not own their estates but received them for use only by the kings, who paid them for their services to society through providing them with a revenue from these estates. I.e. they did not receive any property rights but only the rights to the net revenue drawn from the estates. Accodring to them, one of course could argue that the churches get back their land, but this would mean that all state funding would have to cease completely.
Saturday, 10 April 2010
In June 2008, Mr Tőkés attacked a Hungarian member of the European Parliament, Mrs Madga Kosáné Kovács in her absence, because a few weeks earlier she informed the parliament about church attempts to interfere in forthcoming legislation extending some rights to gay couples and dared to call the head of the European Commission, Mr Barroso to stand up for the principle of secular state and for European values. Mr Tőkés called Mrs Kosáné Kovács a postcommunist, stated that the true European values are protestant (he used the word 'keresztyén' referring to protestant christianism) and suggested the parliament to invite pope Benedict XVI. (It's not clear if Mr Tőkés knows that Benedict XVI. does not consider his church a true one.)
The Kósáné-Tőkés dispute: Mrs Kósáné Kovács: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+CRE+20080519+ITEM-019+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN&query=INTERV&detail=1-049 and http://www.europarl.europa.eu/wps-europarl-internet/faces/vod/player.jsp?date=20080519 Mr Tőkés: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=CRE&reference=20080616&secondRef=ITEM-018&language=EN and http://www.europarl.europa.eu/wps-europarl-internet/faces/vod/player.jsp?session=last¤tSei=SEI1
As Mrs Kósáné Kovács was absent, her colleague replied, stating that Mr Tőkés's attack was inappropriate and disgusting: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/wps-europarl-internet/faces/vod/player.jsp?session=last¤tSei=SEI1
Saturday, 20 February 2010
Saturday, 30 January 2010
2,4 billion forint (a big sum in Hungary) were transferred from the budget of the Hungarian state TV to the equally state financed Duna TV. A blogger "knows" why: not long before, the TV bulding was blessed by Hungarian catholic cardinal Péter Erdő. It turns out that this is the sixth time the blessing has been conducted. Anyway, it seems that the journalists are not that keen to attend the rite--they got a memo remind them to participate, because the time before they had to persuade workers by phone calls to provide an audience for the cardinal...