BUDAPEST BRAINWAVE: King Orbán’s Church Version

 

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife



Stefan J. Bos writes BosNewsLife's BUDAPEST BRAINWAVE


BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife-Columns) -- Sitting on his throne overlooking the Danube river Viktor Orbán wanted more. Hungary's prime minister and uncrowned king realized it wasn't enough that his deep bowing servants in parliament agreed to stifle the press with a media law.

Yes, his subjects would soon read, hear and view the palace's approved messages and programs. And King Orbán's Constitution -- also rubber stamped -- limits the way the highest court operates to  further 'guide' citizens and future governments, if any.

But streamlining where Hungarians go for spiritual guidance proved more complicated.

The partly Oxford-educated leader isn't exactly a King James I of England under whose leadership the acclaimed King James Bible Version was conceived.

So he stood up and looked at the crown of his nation's first King Stephen in the parliament building. He scrached his head and came up with an idea: It was time for a new strict church law.

His hunderds of parliamentary footsoldiers quickly approved the King Orbán's Church Version on July 12. Just in time for their eagerly awaited, tax-payers paid, long summer holiday to exotic destinations.

The law recognizes only 14 of hunderds of religious groups as churches. Hungary, also known as Orbanistan, is still a member of the European Union. So he can't make police raid unregistered churches like the old days when this was a Soviet satellite state.

But taking away their status silences many. It impacts tens of thousands of deeply impoverished Hungarians who rely on state-sponsored cherished social services of these, now illegal, churches.

The law is seen by critics as an effort by King Orbán's government to control where people worship.

"Never before has a member state of the EU so blatantly dared to go against the principles of freedom of beliefs, equality before the law,  and separation of church from state," wrote former dissidents in a letter to the European Union. "These are all established fundamental rights in our common Europe."

Among those targeted are evangelical churches who do full immersion water baptism. No reaction yet from long vacationing EU officials. They have been spotted in water too. In swimming pools, that is.

(BUDAPEST BRAINWAVE is a regular opinionated column of BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos on key developments in Hungary, where BosNewsLife is based. The column was launched following international concerns over a fresh crackdown on new-found freedoms in the region. Opinions of BosNewsLife-Columns do not necessarily reflect the views of online news agency BosNewsLife or its parent with the same name. If you like to support this project you can donate via http://www.bosnewslife.com/donations )

Also Read:

Hungary Pressured To Revoke Controversial Church Law



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  8. Dear Thomas,

    Indeed, Viktor Orbán demanded risked much by demanding that Soviet forces leave Hungary. Yet, as I mentioned in a previous column, “The administration effectively turns back the clock over 20 years when Hungary was still a communist state. Ironically, in 1989 the young ambitious Orbán publicly demanded that the Soviet Union’s Red Army leave Hungary. Now we learn why: to make way for him and an army of Orbán loyalists, united in his Fidesz party with its trademark orange colours. Orbán spoke of a “voters revolution” when he reclaimed the prime minister’s post last year.
    The partly Oxford-educated Orbán may have received his inspiration from Animal Farm, written by late British writer George Orwell about animals taking over a farm thinking it will be the start of a better life. Their dreams of a world where all animals will be equal, and all properties shared, turn into a nightmare. Soon the pigs take control and one of them, Napoleon, becomes the leader of everyone.
    One by one the principles of the revolution are abandoned. Until the animals have even less freedom than before. Orwell’s book remains more actual than ever. In the words of author and philosopher Ágnes Heller: “Orbán wants to become the chief of the tribe.” I am sure that Laszlo Kovacs and Gyula Horn were influential before 1990.
    That’s why it’s interesting that their Communist-turned-Socialist Party is now expressing concern about religious freedom.
    As the media law is concerned: The government effectively may well have taken different sentences from different laws, put it out of context, and mixed it into a law that the European Commission has criticized.
    My Hungarian is sufficient to understand what’s going on in this country. But even if someone does not speak Hungarian, that does not mean he or she can not get enough information to make an informed opinion. In your thinking, most Western diplomats can not criticize China for its obvious human rights abuses, because they don’t speak Chinese.
    Hungary is part of the European Union: It’s main language is English.
    While there may be concern about tax evasion, it has become clear that there are several churches, including even the over 100-year-old Church of God, evangelical groups and others, who have now lost their church status. One can also wonder whether a worldly government can decide what constitutes a church.

    Best regards,

    Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife

  9. To compare Orban, who risked his skin with his demand for the withdrawal of Societ troops prior to the fall of the communist regime, with the communist government (“he can’t make police raid unregistered churches like the old days when this was a Soviet satellite state”) suggests a very superficial knowledge of Hungarian politics and recent Hungarian history. Laszlo Kovacs and Gyula Horn certainly were influential in government before 1990, when such raids took place. Stefan, do you speak Hungarian yourself, or are you just parroting things you have heard from sources you are unable to call into question? And have you compared the new media law with, for instance, the French media law, the German media law, etc.? And the new law concerning recognized churches is not an attempt to assert state control over religion, it is a measure to deal with tax fraud. You remind me of church leaders in the US who wail when they are brought up on charges of tax evasion for having refused to pay taxes on the salaries of their cleaning staff. The very admiraable principle of separation of church and state should not be abused by people seeking to avoid paying taxes.

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