Budapest, April 9 (MTI) – The government is still studying the ruling by the Strasbourg court of human rights on Hungary’s church law, a senior government official said today.
Bence Retvari, state secretary for justice and public administration, told public television m1 that Tuesday’s decision was not final and Hungary still had recourse to appeal to the court’s grand chamber. He noted that the European Court of Human Rights is not the court of the European Union but operated under the auspices of the Council of Europe, which cannot oblige countries to change their laws.
He said the law had been amended in the meantime, and it was possible that the current ruling was not relevant.
Retvari said the aim of Hungary’s church law was to filter out “business churches”.
He noted that the Council of Europe’s other institution, the Venice Commission, had described the current law as allowing an exceptionally broad and liberal scope in terms of freedom of religion.
The court said the law violated the rights of religious communities when it stripped them of their church status.
Religious communities’ loss of full church status breached their rights to freedom of assembly and association and their rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, it said.
“The Court found in particular that the Hungarian Government had not shown that there were not any other, less drastic solutions to problems relating to abuse of State subsidies by certain churches than to de-register the applicant communities,” the court said.
“Furthermore, it was inconsistent with the State’s duty of neutrality in religious matters that religious groups had to apply to Parliament to obtain reregistration as churches and that they were treated differently from incorporated churches with regard to material benefits without any objective grounds,” it added.