Secular Hungary

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Hungarian Lutherans

The weekly HVG has published an article on a research conducted among Hungarian Lutherans. The results were presented by Gergely Prőhle, who is not only a supervisor of the Lutheran church, but also the state secretary responsible for EU relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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

The Sunday fights

As in other European countries and even at EU level, Christian churches are lobbying also in Hungary for a ban on working on Sundays. With a twist.
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

Religious feeling triumphs

Over the freedom of speech, or course. The new law regulating the media is waiting for the approvel of the president, who will no doubt sign it without delay. Par. 17.2 goes as follows: "Media content may not lend itself to openly or implicitly offend the feelings of persons, nations, communities, national, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities or any majority, or of churches or religious groups, or to exclude them." ("A médiatartalom nem lehet alkalmas személyek, nemzetek, közösségek, nemzeti, etnikai, nyelvi és más kisebbségek vagy bármely többség, továbbá valamely egyház vagy vallási csoport nyílt vagy burkolt megsértésére, kirekesztésére." For the entire text:
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

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.'

Monday, 25 October 2010

How to get an award

The Hungarian State has a tradition of distributing state awards on the occation of national holidays, March 15th and October 23rd to people who have had a big positive impact on society. Of course it comes as no surprise that the present government and the president believe proselytization is worth a decoration:
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

Who will remain?

Meanwhile I've checked the tax office's list on 1% offerings - taypayers can donate 1% of their personal income tax to a charity, and another 1% to a church, or alternatively, to a secular cause offered by the state (for 2009 that was eradication of ambrosia, a highly allergen plant, and a programme to support especially talented kids).
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:

Friday, 8 October 2010

Not more churches

Mr László Szászfalvi, state secretary of the Ministry for Public Adminsitration and Justice has outlined last weeks some plans to tighten the rules for establishing religious communities. Currently we have about 185 of them, and among others they have the right to compete with each other for 1% of the personal income tax.
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.

Hunting season

A whole lot of institutions has submitted their claims regarding the new constitutions to the committee preparing the text. Many of them seek to impose their particular views on all citizens, and to narrow down rights. Of course especially regarding people’s private lives.

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:
For data about founding and funding, and religious attendance, check here and here.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Financial audit and the constitution

Have you ever thought about the wide range of fields a state audit office has to be familiar with? In Hungary, this also includes comment on the bases of our constitituion, which the government and the president appointed by the ruling party want to change (allegedly because the present one is the 'communist' constitution of 1949 - while actually, as the saying goes, the only part of it that hasn't been changed after the fall of communism is the date of issuing).
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
Requirements [...]
- 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:

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Kissing the ring

While the pope, XVI. Benedict is busy touring Britain this week, the week before he received the Hungarian president, Pál Schmitt, whom elderly non-Hungarians may know from his carreer in fencing a couple of dacades ago. Later, at the beginning of the 1980s, he made a career in sports diplomacy (being the head of the Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB) also at the time when the committee decided to boycott the Olympic Games in 1984), and in hotellerie: he was the managing director of the Hotel Astoria in Budapest. About 10 years ago, he became a face of Fidesz, and they -- having won 2/3s of the seats in parliament by receving 53% of the votes --  made him president (which is more or less a representative function, and even Schmitt's critics agree that he is a handsome clothes hanger).
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:

Anomymous experts

The highest official for education, secretary of state Rózsa Hoffmann (who became famous for starting her job with cancelling the newly intorduced prescription that kindergarden should not reinforce stereotypes, including gender stereotypes), intends to make a new law on education and higher education. To this aim, she organised a secret experts meeting in August, and the group of experts has already prepared a blueprint for the main issues - a 43-pager for primary and secondary education, while the tertiary sector got 9 pages. FigyelőNet got a copy of it.
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

Verstehen Sie Deutsch?

Eine ziemlich detaillierte Zusammenfassung der ersten 100 Tage im Amt von Viktor Orbán:
A detailed account on Viktor Orbán's first 100 days as prime minister - in German:

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Morals at the protestant university

Hungary has about 80 universities and colleges. Many of them are of course minor province institutions, including a lot of theological schools caring to the needs of one particular denomination for pastors  (needless to say that they receive their funds from the Hungarian state, too). Not so Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church (KRE), which, together with Pázmány Péter Catholic University is an institution with scientific ambitions, and has not only a theologial faculty, but also one for humanities and one for law. Until now, it also had three PhD schools. One of them, the law school, has now been closed down by the Accreditation Committee for continuos non-compliance with basic academic standards. One of these says that in order to run a PhD school, an institution needs to have a certain number of specialists in the field who already have students awarded a PhD degree, and not only the now closed down PhD school, but also the PhD school in literary history is unable to meet this criterion.
However, according to the weekly HVG, the latter seems to have also committed fraud.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

A truly ecumenic prime minister

Though the prime minister of Hungary, Mr Viktor Orbán is a calvinist, catholic spectacles seem to meet his taste much more than protestant puritanism (true, in his youth, around the fall of communism in 1989, he had adpoted a more Voltraian approach to the churches, but he, together with his party, switched to their present worldview in the mid 90s). He participates in the yearly procession of the catholic church  on National Day (20th of August) in Budapest carrying around a piece of a dead body, the alleged right hand of king Stephen I., the christianiser of Hungary and founder of the State.
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.

The expert

Mrs Rózsa Hoffmann, state secretary (i.e. the highest official specialising in education--her boss, the minister is a specialist in medicine and also responsible for health, sports, social, education and culture issues) for education with a strong catholic background, has already several times emphasised that she intends to improve the situation of faith schools (as well as introduce religious education).
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

By the grace of god

We not only have a new government, we'll also get a new president soon. Though the Hungarian president's function is mostly representational, one of his duties is to ensure that all new laws respect the constitution, i.e. he's supposed to act as one element of the checks and balances. He (there has never been a she yet) is elected for a period of five years by the parliament (while the parliament's period is four years), and the term of the present one, Mr László Sólyom expires in August.
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

How to hand over state schools to churches easily

The Hungarian Teachers' Union wrote a letter to the constitutional court protesting against a new bill (No. LI of 2010) modifíng the law on public education. According to the bill, local authorities may hand over their schools to a church institution on the spot, without delay. According to the union, this step violates teachers' and pupils' religious freedom, as this would mean that anyone may suddenly find themselves in a religious institution, and in some places, there may not be any secular alternative.
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,

Abuse management in Hungary

The child abuse scandal of the catholic church has not reached Hungary, and as during the communist era only a handfull of church schools were allowed to operate, the number of children abused in the last couple of decades cannot be as high as in countries where schools and children's homes were often managed by churches. This of course also means that any victim knows s/he is alone and they won't be any masses to support them.
Still, such things happen once in a while,

Monday, 24 May 2010

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,

Locked school doors

Schoolkids in Zsámbék (near Budapest) found themselves in font of locked doors, because of a dispute between two congregations. The owners of the building, the Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross in Linz (Austria) let the building (which they received back from the state with the condition that they use it for social or educational purposes) to the Premonstratensians, for school purposes. The building is in a bad condition, and some parts of it are closed, but the school is still operating.
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

New government, new census

After having waited impatiently for four years, in April, the liberal-turned conservative Fidesz have won the elections, carrying on their back the clerical Christian National Democrats (KDNP), who on their own don't even make the 1% limit for getting state funding, not to speak of managing to tackle the 5% threshold for getting into parliament. While the new government has still not yet taken over (as they want to govern with a totally new structure, meaning very few ministers [so a medical researcher is designated to govern health, education, culture, welfare and sports issues] and a huge amount of state secretaries, they first have to amend the constitution), the parliament is already up and working: three MPs (two of them Christian Democrats, of whom one especially famous for bashing singles and designated deupty prime minister) have initiated a change to the census law in order to add (among others) a question on religious affiliation. According to their initiative, answering would not be compulsory--as in 2001, when over 10% of the population declined to answer, and the rest of the data was quite meaningless, as most people just answered based on their family tradition.
Conclusion: another way to throw out a lot of money when we are short of it...

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Blacklisted priests

A couple of years ago, a list appeared on the internet with the names and photos of alleged homosexuals in the Catholic clergy in four Hungarian dioceses. Besides homosexuality, some of them were accused also of criminla offenses (as coruption and paedosexual offenses). The list, whose unknown authors stated that it was far from exhaustive, seems to have been modífied to include new information, was taken down by a hacker, reappeared and finally disappeard in 2007. But the story s not over, as two of the persons listed, both of them bishops, have filed a complaint.
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

Creationist methods against linguistics

In Hungary, it's not only creationists and ID-people who try to use the law and the media as a stage for their issues instead of scientific debates. The relatively new Jobbik, a political party on the far right (which is sometimes called fascist) has launched a petition against something they call "Finno-Ugrian theory of origin", in order to force "the heritage of Hunor and Magor" into the schoolbooks.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Ad hominem for criticism

Hungarian sceptics were quite delighted to hear that a TED-conference was being organised in Hungary in cooperation with the weekly HVG. They were also quite surprised when they saw that the programme contained István Tasi [ishtvan tashee], whose ideas they know but to well. His book about "biology" is available in English, too (he also claims the book was a finalist at the USA Book News 2009 Best Book Award, though it seems each title paid for being listed becomes a finalist there). As the title of his presentation was identical with the title of his book, the sceptics wrote an open letter to the organisers, suggesting not that they cancel his presentation, but that the topic was changed to something more in line with his career, such as religion (their letter is available also in English The organisers and Tasi said that this was a misunderstanding and the presentation was going to be about religion, anyway, and everything seemed to be all right.
Now, three months later,

Sunday, 11 April 2010


Last year, a reformed bishop suggested that the churches receive back not only their buildings, but also the arable land that was taken away from them after WWII (the catholic church used to be one of the biggest land owners until them). The question is being discussed (not too vividly, however) in the intellectual weekly 'És' ('And'--its real name is 'Élet és irodalom', i.e. 'Life and Literature', but I have not once heard its whole name and it's referred to even in writing as 'És').
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.;24710

Saturday, 10 April 2010

The bishop's wife files for divorce

Basically, this is of course a private issue, were it not for her husband, László Tőkés. Tőkés is a well known bishop of the reformed church, and a member of the European Parliament for Romania (he is a member of the Hungarian minority in Transsylvania), and he played an important role in the Romanian revolution in 1989. He is also well known for promoting "traditional family values" -- which he seems not to apply to himself, however, if we believe Edit Joó Tőkés, who allegedly has also written a letter to the head of the European Parliament complaining about the lifestyle of her husband, who did not handle discreetly his love affairs in Brussels and Strasbourg. Mrs Tőkés complained that her husband communicated with her and their three children through formal letters, and also required her to keep a record of any money spent - backing her accounts with receipts even for the smallest items. According to Romanian newspapers there was a scandal already in 1999, when Mrs Tőkés caught her husband having sex with his lover on his bishop's office desk.

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: and Mr Tőkés: and
As Mrs Kósáné Kovács was absent, her colleague replied, stating that Mr Tőkés's attack was inappropriate and disgusting:

Saturday, 20 February 2010

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.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Blessed TV

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...