Budapest, September 29 (MTI) – In future churches should be registered by courts based on legal provisions, according to a consultation paper on the church law published online on kormany.hu.
The law in effect since January 1, 2012 originally recognised only 14 congregations as established churches but allowed other faiths to apply to parliament for recognition, dependent on the vote of a two-thirds majority.
One aim of the consultation paper is to ensure that the adoption of a community’s religious status should not disadvantage it, kormany.hu said.
The amendments to the law would also allow churches the opportunity to appeal against court rulings, the paper added.
Church status will be restored to communities carrying out religious activities that lost it under the law in effect since 2012.
The relevant parts of the law governing church status were rejected by the Constitutional Court earlier this year. The ruling was based on an earlier decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) relating to the church law.
In October 2013, the Budapest Autonomous Congregation requested official recognition as a church. This was denied on the ground that the association had not verified that it complied with the requirements set out in the law.
Earlier the association had turned to the ECtHR, which last April ruled that the Hungarian church law did not comply with the convention.
The Strasbourg court ruled that discrimination against certain religious organisations conflicts with the principle of neutrality outlined in the convention, which states that if the state grants support or tax preferences to religious organisations, it must do so with complete neutrality.
A basic principle laid out in the consultation paper is that all communities that define themselves as churches should be eligible for constitutional protections for practising religion guaranteed by the fundamental law.
Any religious community with at least ten members can become a legal entity. As religious associations, they have the right to participate in fulfilling public duties, it adds.
New registered churches need to have a history of five years as a religious association, and 1,000 members or an average 400 supporters who have donated 1 percent of their personal income tax for the past three years.
Licensed churches would need to verify that they have existed as an association internationally for at least 100 years, or in Hungary for at least 20 years, and have at least 10,000 members or 4,000 supporters donating 1 percent of their personal income tax for five years.
The bill aims to resolve issues that have been brought up at Hungary’s top court and international forums including the Venice Commission and the ECtHR in connection with the current law, its justification said.