Secular Hungary

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,