| Religious Freedom Ranking:
2.5 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement
Hungary, formerly part of the Soviet Union, joined the European Union in 2004. Due to economic strife within the country, exacerbated by the European credit crunch of 2008, the right wing, anti-Semitic and anti-Roma (Gypsy) party Jobbik has risen to power. In their 2010 elections, Jobbik received nearly 17 percent of the votes. In 2012, Jobbik held demonstrations encouraging the country to leave the EU. Jobbik has ties to political parties in Sweden, Italy, France, and Belgium. Jobbik also has support from the Hungarian Guard, a civilian militia that has been banned from Hungary, though still has supporters.
Hungary has a population of approximately 10 million people. According to the country’s most recent census, taken in 2001, 55 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 15 percent is Hungarian Reformed, three percent is Lutheran, and less than one percent is Jewish. These four groups are considered the country’s “historic” religions. Less than five percent of the population is either Greek Catholic, Congregation of Faith, one of five Orthodox Christian groups, several other Christian groups, Buddhist, or Muslim.
The Hungarian Constitution of 1972 guarantees liberty of conscience and freedom of worship to all its citizens. The constitution declares that church and state are separate. The four “historic” religions receive 93 percent of the State funding allocated to religious groups. All other registered religious groups receive the other seven percent from the government. Because of the economic struggles, state funding has dropped from $47 million in 2009 to $14 million in 2010. Additional state funding for other religious activities also dropped in 2010 to $71 million.
The government has been assisting the Jewish community in several ways. In September 1996, the president officially reopened a synagogue in Budapest for which it had provided more than $500,000 for reconstruction. In October 1996, Parliament passed a Jewish Restitution Decree, allocating $250 million for restitution. In December of 1996, the government began debate on funding for a Jewish foundation which will distribute funds to Hungarian Holocaust survivors and oversee property and restitution claims by heirs of Holocaust victims. In 2005 the government adopted a resolution allowing it to accelerate property restitution claims.
There have been a number of incidents in Hungary involving anti-Semitism. In one case, a man murdered his girlfriend, carved a swastika into her forehead, and draped her body in a flag bearing a Nazi symbol. There have also been numerous accounts of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries and holocaust memorials.
On January 1, 2012, Hungary replaced their constitution with a new “Fundamental Law.” The new constitution has been criticized by the EU because it is seemingly undemocratic, and they have threatened legal action. It has the potential to threaten the independence of media and the country’s judiciary. Prime Minister Orban and the conservative Fidesz party pushed the constitution through. The previous Socialist government dissatisfied the party, who claim that concern about the national debt crisis demanded the changes to be made.
The 1990 Act on the Freedom of Conscience regulates the activities of Religious groups. The law also imposes requirements for groups to register with the government. Groups must have at least 100 members and must have a charter and elected bodies. While groups are not required to register, they must in order to receive funding and other benefits. Registered religions have the right to provide religious education in public schools if it is requested by the students or parents.
2010 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Hungary
Hungary - New World Encyclopedia
Hungary Country Profile- BBC News
Inside Hungary's anti-Semitic right-wing-globalpost.com
Leader of Hungary Defends New Constitution- NYTIMES.com