European Court of Human Rights rejects Hungary’s attempt to create ”second-class churches” By Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
By Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
In an important freedom of religion decision, earlier today the European Court of Human Rights rejected parts of Hungary’s 2011 Church Act that stripped most Hungarian religious groups–including prominent religious groups such as Mennonites, Evangelicals, Reform Jews, and Buddhists–of “church” status that they had held for many years after the fall of Communism. Without “church” status, these groups suffered under several different legal disabilities, including ineligibility for tax exemptions, disqualification from social service contracts, and denial of equal access to state subsidies provided to approved “churches.” In the Court’s view, these disabilities interfered with these religious organizations’ freedom of religious association under Articles 9 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Although the disfavored religious organizations could apply for re-registration as “churches”, this right was illusory as the organizations would have to receive a 2/3 vote in Parliament to succeed in obtaining “church” status.
The decision was made by one of the Court’s Sections, so today’s decision could still be appealed to the Grand Chamber by the Hungarian government.