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82 churches ask to be recognized in Hungary

82 churches ask to be recognized in Hungary

In accordance with a new church law approved at the end of last year, 82 churches, congregations and other religious groups have so far asked to be officially recognized by Parliament, Hungary's Justice Ministry said Friday.
The published list includes representatives from a wide range of religions and churches, including Methodists, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Baha'i Community, Buddhists, Mormons, Muslims, Reform Jews, Hindus, the Salvation Army and Hare Krishnas.
The churches _ some active and recognized in Hungary for decades _ will need to gain approval from a two-thirds majority of lawmakers to retain special tax, labor and other privileges.
The new church law was initially passed in mid-2011, but the Constitutional Court abolished it in December on procedural grounds because the law has been practically rewritten shortly before lawmakers' voted on it.
Fourteen leading Christian and Jewish congregations were the only ones granted official status in the law, which was passed again by the two-thirds majority of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party last week.
The government said the new law did not limit freedom of religion and was needed to filter out businesses masquerading as churches, but experts said that could have been achieved relying on already existing legislation.
"Neither communities nor individuals are under any constraints in the practice of their religion in Hungary," Bence Retvari, state secretary at the Justice Ministry told the AP last month. "The real objective of this law is to regularize the system of state subsidies and tax benefits, which was being abused."
Hungary has had a new constitution since Jan. 1 _ passed last April only by government party legislators _ and critics say that the church law is one of several which erodes democratic checks and balances and increases political influence over many aspects of public life.
Previously, churches needed only to register with a court to be recognized as such.


Updated : 2021-05-13 23:57 GMT+08:00